Issue No.16 Spring
(April 2007)


ENS News

Word from the President

The Revenge of Gaia

ENS Events

Pime 2007


ENC 2007

EYGF 2007

Member Societies & Corporate Members

The NICODEME contract

Nuclear Reactor Control

Introducing the use of artificial intelligence in materials science

Swiss Nuclear Society (SNS)

SAFPWR web site

SIEN 2007

The Drawing Contest

Resumé of Swiss Nuclear Society´s Autumn Seminar in 2006

YGN Report

First encounter with young political organizations in Salamanca

YGN BNES activities

Winter School “PR Technologies: How to Work with Public and Media”

European Institutions

50 years of the Euratom Treaty: reflecting on the past, safeguarding the future

50 years old and going strong: FORATOM toasts health of Euratom Treaty

ENS World News

Second Neutron Beam Instrument Online as OPAL Returns to Full Power

NucNet News

ENS Members

Links to ENS Member Societies

Links to ENS Corporate Members

Editorial staff

ENC 2007

ENC 2007
16 - 20 September 2007 in Brussels









































































50 years of the Euratom Treaty: reflecting on the past, safeguarding the future.

This month will see celebrations to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome that established the European Economic Community (EEC) – the forerunner of today’s European Union. Amid the banner-waving, rousing speeches and media attention devoted to assessing the successes and failures of the “great European experiment” it might escape the public’s attention that the occasion also marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Euratom Treaty. This anniversary will doubtless be celebrated with less razzamatazz than that of the EEC Treaty but it is likely to provoke heated debate and polarised viewpoints. The Euratom Treaty has constantly been subjected to reappraisal and political scrutiny. It is correct that such an important treaty be the subject of scrutiny. At times, however, sensible debate has been hindered by unnecessary controversy borne out of a lack of understanding of the origins, objectives and functioning of the Treaty. It continues to suffer the vitriol of lobbyists and governments opposed to nuclear energy, who have a tendency to ignore the facts. As the saying goes, “never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”

Whatever your views on the Euratom Treaty might be, its fiftieth anniversary will undeniably put the spotlight once again on its relevance, applicability and future. So, it is worth reminding ourselves of exactly what the Treaty’s main objectives were then – and remain today. In simple terms, the Treaty seeks to:

  • contribute to the formation and development of Europe’s nuclear industry, so that all Member States can benefit from nuclear energy

  • enhance security of energy supply

  • guarantee high standards of safety for the public and workers

  • ensure that nuclear materials are not diverted from civil to military use

The Treaty has, of course, been adapted to take account of other treaty changes and has given rise to a substantial body of secondary legislation over the years. But 50 years on it is still in force. It is no less relevant today than it was then.

The most useful thing about anniversaries is that they invite us to look back, take stock, and apply the lessons of the past to the future. A brief look at the history of the Euratom Treaty is necessary to put things into proper context. Then the debate about the pros and cons of the Treaty, where it is today and what the future holds can begin in earnest.

Learning the lessons of history

When Egypt’s leader Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal Company in 1956 to raise the revenue he needed to construct the Aswan Dam, he effectively blocked Europe’s access to the rich oil fields of the Middle East. At that time two-thirds of Europe’s oil was imported via the canal - and British banks and businesses had a 44% stake in it. The threat of military intervention by the British and of retaliatory action against Egypt by Israel led the Soviet Union to side with Egypt, to which it had been exporting weapons for some time. Faced with a potential armed conflict at a time when the scars of the Second World War were still fresh in Europe’s mind, Britain, France and the US stepped away from the brink, in what was perceived as an embarrassing climb-down. Nasser’s action had changed Middle East geo-politics for ever and spawned the first great energy crisis.

Europe was forced to seek alternative energy sources to ensure the security of energy supply that was essential to fire the furnaces of industry and to satisfy the increasing domestic energy demand that went hand-in-hand with the post-war economic recovery. Sounds familiar? The sense of déjà vu is overwhelming as Europe today once again seeks alternative energy solutions to guarantee security of energy supply, bring an end to over-dependence upon energy imports and meet rising demand. Once again nuclear energy provides a solution. The only difference today is that the climate change conundrum has added an additional irresistible argument in favour of nuclear energy that did not exist in the not so environmentally-conscious 1950’s.

However, it should not be forgotten that nuclear science was already a well-established discipline and research and development programmes were being implemented long before the Euratom Treaty was signed. As early as 1945, France’s President, Charles De Gaulle, had created the Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique (CEA) and the UK had established its first nuclear research centre, at Harwell. By 1947, the first British nuclear reactor had started operation and construction of two graphite-moderated and air-cooled reactors at Windscale began. In 1953 the CEA began building gas-cooled reactors at Marcoule. In 1955, EDF started building a 70MW graphite-gas reactor at Chinon. In 1956, nuclear electricity generation started for the first time in Western Europe, at Calder Hall. Nuclear technology and know-how existed and was on a development fast track. What was needed was a catalyst to provide the impetus for a lasting breakthrough; one that would translate the promise of nuclear science and technology into a practical source of base-load energy to sustain post-war economic and social development. Little did he know it at the time, but Nasser’s act of naked protectionism had helped to accelerate that breakthrough and to set the wheels in motion for the creation and signing of the Euratom Treaty and for the coming of the nuclear age.

Two years after the EEC and Euratom Treaties came into force nuclear organisations in the six countries that first signed the EEC and Euratom treaties - Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands – joined forces to create FORATOM. Its mission then, as today, was to promote the interests of the European nuclear industry and civil applications of nuclear energy. The nuclear industry needed a unified voice to back up concerted action. FORATOM provided the platform to make that voice heard. FORATOM has continued to adapt to changing circumstances and to grow. Today it counts member associations in 17 countries and represents the interests of over 800 companies. Like the Euratom Treaty, it has stood the test of time. From the initial “golden age of nuclear,” via the tragedy of Chernobyl, to today’s nuclear revival - Euratom and FORATOM have lived through it all.


Fifty years after it was first signed the Euratom Treaty is still meeting the objectives that it fixed in 1957. Nothing has changed – ensuring that the legislation is strictly adhered to, promoting operational safety and efficiency, ensuring that fissile materials are not allowed to be misused for military purposes and promoting the internal energy market are just as relevant and important today as they ever were. Such fundamental objectives as these are never likely to become redundant. They should not be compromised. Furthermore, supporting research that will secure Europe’s energy future long after polluting fossil fuel resources have been exhausted will always remain a Treaty priority.

But the Treaty has done more than simply meet its objectives. It has achieved a lot. Its most notable successes have been in the area of safety, with the fixing of comprehensive safeguards and the introducing of strict benchmarking standards. It is important to remember here that the Euratom Treaty never forced any EEC Member State to use nuclear energy. That choice was ultimately theirs and theirs alone. Instead it placed strict radioprotection safeguards on those that chose to opt for nuclear. The inadequate safety standards in operation at Chernobyl in 1986, which were outside of the Euratom Treaty’s sphere of influence, were a major contributing factor to the terrible disaster. While it would be unrealistic to say that a disaster could never happen at a European nuclear plant, it cannot be denied that the safety record of the nuclear industry in the EU is second to none - and the Euratom Treaty has helped bring this about.

Euratom loans have also helped to implement safety upgrades and decommissioning programmes in the EU. It has helped maintain this safety benchmark for the industry and has ensured that these standards have been maintained. This has directly contributed to the industry’s impressive safety record.

The safeguards on the handling and distribution of fissile materials provided by the Treaty have been proven to play a very effective role in ensuring that civil nuclear materials are not misappropriated for military uses. In today’s world, where the threat of terrorism is ever-present, this is a significant achievement.

The Treaty ensures that a regular and fair supply of uranium and nuclear fuels is maintained and this is done through the careful monitoring and approval of supply contracts by the Euratom Supply Agency. This helps ensure security of supply – and we all know how this issue, together with reversing excessive dependence upon energy imports, is driving EU energy policy at the moment.

The Treaty has also achieved notable successes in the area of research. For example, it continues to foster nuclear R & D via the EU’s 7th Framework Programme and the work of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. Joint undertakings like the Joint European Torus (JET) and ITER, which focus on fusion technology, ensure that research concentrates on continuously modernising nuclear technology and on identifying longer-term nuclear solutions. By encouraging research information exchange and transfer of knowledge the Treaty has encouraged the wider goal of European integration by developing a thriving European scientific community. This also encouraged the creation of the European Nuclear Society (ENS).

On the international front, the Treaty has enabled major nuclear co-operation agreements to be signed, e.g. with the US, Japan, Australia and Canada. These agreements have helped to provide a basis for increased shared security and safety on a global scale.

Finally, the Treaty has helped to establish a European market for nuclear energy in which access to materials and security of supply play a key role. This is consistent with the principles of the European Single Market.

For a variety of reasons opponents of the Treaty have long campaigned to have it scrapped. The nuclear industry, with the support of FORATOM, continues to answer these criticisms by putting forward counter-arguments that emphasise the objectives, workings and achievements of the Treaty. While recognising that the Treaty is not perfect (which piece of major legislation ever is?), the nuclear industry defends the key role that it plays in helping to ensure that a safe, well-regulated and efficient industry can continue to deliver the secure supply of electricity that contributes to meeting rising energy demand. The Euratom Treaty provides the nuclear industry with the legal framework to deliver. At the same time the Treaty makes it extremely difficult for nuclear technology to be misused for military purposes.

What about the future?

What does the future hold for the Euratom Treaty? As we have seen, the arguments in favour of retaining it are just as strong today as they have ever been and the fact that we are experiencing a global nuclear revival makes the Treaty all the more relevant and necessary.

FORATOM continues to monitor the debate surrounding the Treaty and the work of the Euratom Sub-group of its Legal Affairs Working Group focuses on answering calls for the Treaty to be scrapped. Let’s not forget that those calling for its demise are quite simply anti-nuclear whatever the context and irrespective of what the Treaty stands for or has achieved.

The main thrust of industry’s response is to emphasise how it is not just in the industry’s interest that the Treaty should remain applicable, but also in the interest of EU citizens. After all, they ultimately benefit from secure supplies of safe, environmentally-friendly energy at a competitive price. These are not only the key objectives of the EU’s energy policy, but also support the three pillars (social, economic and environmental) that lie at the heart of its sustainable development strategy. The nuclear industry is not insensitive to some of the Treaty’s shortcomings and acknowledges that some parts of the Treaty work less well than others. Surely no piece of legislation can survive for fifty years without exhibiting some weaknesses. But the risks involved in changing or scrapping it far outweigh any potential gain. The industry’s position on the Euratom Treaty remains clear, however; in spite of its shortcomings, it must - and will - continue to provide the legal framework and set the standards.

The current nuclear revival continues to gain momentum, precisely because of its increasingly recognised security of supply and CO2 reduction credentials. Several EU countries with nuclear phase-out policies in place have already reviewed or are currently reviewing their approach to nuclear energy. Other countries are extending their nuclear capacity or opting to go nuclear for the first time. Today, there is a much more pragmatic acceptance that nuclear, as part of an overall energy mix that includes renewables, offers the best solution to Europe’s energy and environmental needs. Governments, citizens and environmentalists alike are reassessing their viewpoint and embracing this reality. The future of the Euratom Treaty is inextricably linked to the future of the nuclear industry and that future looks to be quite promising at the moment. So, as the saying goes, “if it aint broke, don’t fix it.”

Happy 50th birthday Euratom Treaty!

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