The European Union

Le Parlement Européen, Strasbourg

 More than a confederation of States and less than a Federal State, the European Union is based on an original political system that fits into no legal category and has been evolving constantly for more than fifty-five years.

Today, the European Union - with the Treaty instituting the European Community of Atomic Energy (Euratom) and its secondary legislation - is at the centre of the regulatory work in the field of nuclear safety and radiation protection.

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Relations with EU institutions

Regular contacts with the European Commission (Directorate General for Energy in particular) serve to keep track of the progress and prospects of the regulatory work in several areas of nuclear safety and radiation protection: transposition of directives into national legislation, functioning of the Euratom Treaty committees, in particular.

ASN also participates in the work of the Euratom Treaty committees and groups of experts:  

  • Scientific and Technical Committee (STC);
  • group of experts referred to in Article 31(basic radiation protection standards);
  • group of experts referred to in Article 35 (verification and monitoring of radioactivity in the environment)
  • group of experts referred to in Article 36 (information concerning the monitoring of radioactivity in the environment)
  • group of experts referred to in Article 37 (notifications relative to radioactive effluent discharges).

The Euratom treaty and secondary legislation

The Treaties constitute the "primary legislation" of the European Union, comparable with constitutional law at national level. They define the fundamental elements of the Union, including more specifically the competences, the legislative procedures and the powers attributed.

The Treaty establishing the European Community of Atomic Energy (Euratom)

Signed in 1957, the Euratom treaty coordinates the member states' ongoing or planned research programmes with a view to the civil use of nuclear energy.

The Euratom treaty has allowed the harmonised development across Europe of a strict system for the control of nuclear safety [1] (chapter 7) and radiation protection (chapter 3). Despite the fact that the Euratom Treaty does not give the Community strict and exclusive competence in certain areas, it nevertheless remains a real source of added value for its members.

This is because on the basis of this treaty the European Commission has adopted recommendations and decisions which, despite being non-binding, establish European standards (chapter 3).

It is also important to emphasise that other EC policies such as those for the environment and research also have a considerable impact on the nuclear sector.

The added value of Euratom and the EU is particularly obvious in the context of enlargement of the European Union. Thanks to Euratom, the EU has a harmonised approach to nuclear energy which candidate countries are obliged to adopt. The eastward extensions of the EU place the emphasis on the nuclear sector, and more specifically on the questions concerning nuclear safety.

Secondary legislation

This means the legislative acts adopted by the European institutions in application of the provisions of the treaties. The main legally binding acts are the regulations and the directives :

A regulation is a general and mandatory act adopted by the Council of the European Union  with / or without the European Parliament, or by the Commission alone, and which is directly applicable in the member states. A directive is adopted by the same European institutions but needs to be implemented at national level for being effective. It binds the 28 countries through the objective to be achieved but leaves them free to choose the form and means used to achieve this objective.

The decisional path of the EURATOM treaty

In its broad lines the institutional framework of the Euratom treaty is similar to that of the EU treaty and is underpinned by the same "institutional triangle" (Council, Commission and European Parliament). Performance of the tasks entrusted to the Community is thus ensured not only by the European Parliament, the Commission and the Council, but also by the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Auditors. Each institution acts within the limits of the attributions conferred upon it by the treaty. The Council and the Commission are assisted by an Economic and Social Committee exercising consultative functions.

[1] En France, au sens de la loi TSN la sécurité nucléaire recouvre la sécurité civile en cas d’accident, la protection des installations contre les actes de malveillance, la sûreté nucléaire, c’est-à-dire le fonctionnement sécurisé de l’installation, et la radioprotection, qui vise à protéger les personnes et l’environnement contre les effets de rayonnements ionisants. Au sens de l’AIEA la sécurité nucléaire recouvre les mesures visant à empêcher et à détecter un vol, un sabotage, un accès non autorisé, un transfert illégal ou d’autres actes malveillants mettant en jeu des matières nucléaires et autres matières radioactives ou les installations associées et à intervenir en pareil cas.

The Nuclear Safety Directive

Brief history of the EU's competences in terms of Nuclear Safety

In a judgement on December 10, 2002 (affaire C-29/99 Commission of the European Communities vs. Council of the European Union ), the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), noting that an artificial distinction could not be established between radiation protection and nuclear safety, recognised the principle of the existence of a community competence in the field of nuclear safety in relation to chapter 3 of the Euratom treaty. Paragraph 82 of the Judgement thus states "In the light of points 74 to 81 of the present judgement, it is not appropriate, in order to define the Community's competences, to draw an artificial distinction between the protection of the health of the general public and the safety of sources of ionising radiation".

Further to the judgement of the CJEU, the European Commission adopted two directive proposals on January 30, 2003, commonly referred as the "nuclear package", one defining the general principles in the area of the safety of nuclear facilities, the other on the management of spent fuel and radioactive waste. However, the "nuclear package" could not be adopted by the Council of the European Union because several EU member States opposed it.

Consequently, in June 2004, the Council of the European Union adopted conclusions recommending that the work to further harmonisation in nuclear safety should be continued, and at the end of 2004 decided on a "nuclear plan of action". ASN actively participated in the work of thead hocGroup created to implement this plan.

Further to the recommendations formulated by this group, on July 17, 2007 the Commission created the European High Level Group (HLG) on Nuclear Safety and Waste Management, which subsequently changed its name to ENSREG (European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group).

Further to the work of ENSREG, the European Commission adopted a proposal of directive on November 26, 2008 defining a general framework indicating the obligations and principles in terms of nuclear safety of nuclear installations in the European Union while at the same time stepping up the role of the national Safety Authorities. The directive was finally approved on June 25, 2009.

A directive on the management of spent fuel and radioactive waste was moreover adopted in 2011.

European directive on the safety of nuclear facilities

The discussions on a directive to "establish a community framework for the nuclear safety of nuclear installations" (2009/71/EURATOM), which began in November 2008, continued until June 25, 2009.

The EU member have to set up a legislative framework on nuclear safety (Article 4) and to establish an independent regulatory body (Article 5).

It also sets out the obligations of the nuclear facility licensees (Article 6), insisting on the question of availability of competences (Article 7) and informing the general public (Article 8).

Lastly, it provides for a European IRRS (Article 9) model in accordance with the principles of nuclear safety, to foster "continuous improvement" in practices in this area.

Although it was presented as a "framework" directive setting out the broad principles of nuclear safety, this regulatory text puts an end to a curious situation, namely the absence of European legislation in terms of nuclear safety, whereas the EU, with the EURATOM Treaty, had one of the most advanced legislations in the nuclear field and accommodates nearly 150 nuclear reactors in Europe.

Due to Fukushima accident in March 2011, on the basis of a mandarte given by the Council of European Union, the European Commission presented a revision proposal for the directive in June 13, 2013 and the negotiations will carry on by the mid of the Year 2014.

Directive on the Management of Spent Fuel and Radioactive Waste

On July 19, 2011 the Council of the European Union adopted a directive "establishing a community framework for the responsible and safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste" (directive 2011/70/Euratom). The adoption of this directive constitutes a key event that helps strengthening nuclear safety within the European Union while at the same time making the member states more accountable for the management of their radioactive waste and spent fuels.

This directive is legally binding and institutes a community framework on a priority issue.

  1. This directive covers all the aspects of radioactive waste and spent fuel management, from production through to long-term disposal.
  2. It reiterates the prime responsibility of the producers and the ultimate responsibility of each member state to ensure the management of the waste produced on its territory, making sure that the necessary measures are taken to guarantee a high level of safety and to protect workers and the general public against the dangers of ionising radiation.
  3. It defines the obligations concerning the safety of management of radioactive waste and spent fuel.
    It obliges each member state to create a legal framework relative to the questions of nuclear safety, providing for:
  4. It governs the development of the national radioactive waste and spent fuel management policies that each member state will be required to implement. More specifically, each member state must establish a legislative and regulatory framework designed to set up national programmes for the management of radioactive waste and spent fuel. France for its part has, since 2006, had a National Radioactive Material and Waste Management Plan (PNGMDR).

The directive also contains provisions concerning:

  • transparency and the participation of the public,
  • the financial resources for the management of radioactive waste and spent fuel,
  • training,
  • the obligations for regular self-assessments and peer reviews.

It formalises the ultimate responsibility of each member State to ensure the management of its radioactive waste and governs the possibilities of exporting this waste for disposal.

These aspects therefore represent major advances to enhance the safe and responsible nature of the management of radioactive waste and spent fuel in the European Union.

The radiation protection directives

Chapter 3 of the Euratom Treaty concerns radiation protection and its articles 30 to 39 define the competences of the radiation protection in this respect. They constitute the legislative basis of the European directives on this subject and they define the Committees tasked with producing and following up the said directives. It is in this way that it many directives concerning radiation protection have been adopted.

The European Atomic Energy Community Treaty: created in 1957, the original purpose of the European Atomic Energy Community was to contribute to the creation and the growth of nuclear industries. Nevertheless, the Euratom Treaty does not in itself oblige the promotion of nuclear energy, nor does it contradict the current objective of openness and diversification of the energy markets. Today Euratom constitutes the framework for an abundance of secondary legislation that governs the functioning of nuclear energy, notably with regard to the radiation protection of populations and the regulation of nuclear materials, which has undoubtedly helped establish a high level of nuclear safety and security in the member states of the European Union, whatever their choices of energy sources. Chapter 3 of Euratom stipulates that "basic standards for the protection of the health of workers and the general public against the dangers arising from ionising radiation are instituted in the Community"; these standards are drawn up by the European Commission after consulting a group of experts instituted by Article 31 of the Treaty and ruled by the Council of Ministers after consulting the European Parliament.

Five directives on radiation protection currently constitute the foundation of the French legislation and regulations with regard to radiation protection:

Un texte d’une nouvelle directive Euratom relative aux normes de base en radioprotection qui regroupe dans une seule directive les 5 directives précédentes en prenant compte de dernières recommandations de la CIPR (103) a été adopte le 30 mai 2013 par la Commission Européenne et le 5 décembre par le Conseil de l’UE. La nouvelle Directive a été publiée le 17 janvier 2014 dans le Journal officiel de l’Union européenne.


ENSREG (European Safety REgulators Group) is a group of experts from the European Commission and the member countries of the European Union, represented by national delegations, split evenly between heads of safety regulators and representatives of Ministries for the Environment or Energy (i.e. two representatives per delegation).

France is represented within ENSREG by the Chairman of ASN and by the DGEC (Directorate General for Energy and Climate)

Following a decision by the European Council (heads of States and Governments) in March 2007, a "High-Level Group" (HLG) on nuclear safety and waste management, subsequently renamed ENSREG, was created in 2008. It is an independent group which helps the European Commission establish the conditions for continuous improvement of nuclear safety and reach a common position in the fields of safety and the management of radioactive waste.

ASN participates in the ENSREG working groups tasked respectively with nuclear safety, waste management, transparency and international relations.

ENSREG coordinated the nuclear power plant stress tests in Europe following the Fukushima accident, on the basis of a technical provisions established by WENRA (Western European Nuclear Regulators Association). In December 2012, ASN published a national action plan in response to the recommendations of the 2012 European Peer Review of Stress Tests and the 2nd Extraordinary Meeting of the Convention on Nuclear Safety (CSN) in 2012. This action plan includes the prescriptions of ASN resolutions of June 26, 2012 aimed at increasing the robustness of nuclear power plants in extreme situations beyond the safety margins already available to the facilities. Several updates were published since then. In December 2020, the final report , that presents the provisions defined by EDF in response to ASN prescriptions, was published. 

In addition, ENSREG organised the first peer review on ageing management of power reactors and research reactors with a power equal to or greater than 1 MWth.

In this context, each of the 19 countries participating in this review drafted a national report on their assessment of the ageing of the reactors concerned, which was posted on the ENSREG website in 2017.

Following the peer review completed at the end of 2018, the participating countries drafted their national action plan, published on the ENSREG website at the end of September 2019.

The document in English is available below.

This report includes half a dozen actions: four for nuclear power plants and two for research reactors (Cabri and RJH). The conclusions of the self-assessment and the peer review concerned Ageing Management Programmes (power and research reactors) and concealed pipework in power reactors.

Finally, pursuant the conclusions of the EU Council in March 2019, a progress report on actions by mid-2021 was requested from the participating countries.  France published in June 2021 its report specifying the actions implemented, which allow the action plan to be closed. The document in English is available below.