EU Presidency issues revised 'nuclear package' proposals

On 23 March, the European Council Presidency issued revised versions of the compromise proposals for the ‘nuclear package’ – the European Commission’s proposed EU-wide Directives for safety, decommissioning funds and radioactive waste management, which aim at covering the future use of nuclear energy in the enlarged EU.

The European Council’s latest compromise proposals follow several others –all of which have been a serious attempt to end a deadlock between pro- and anti-Directive member states over the ‘nuclear package’ in the Council. These new proposals take into account some of the views expressed by the European Parliament, which acted in a consultative capacity only when it voted on the ‘package’ in January.

Please click here: for the European Council’s 23 March proposals:

Proposal for a Council Directive (Euratom) on the management of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste

Proposal for a Council (Euratom) Directive setting out the basic obligations and general principles on the safety of nuclear installations

Regarding the European Commission, it is now unclear if or when it intends to come out with its own set of separate revised compromise proposals. It had announced, on 5 February, that these were to be expected by Easter.

As far as content is concerned, the most significant changes in the new European Council proposals involve the safety Directive. Particularly significant are the following points:

  • the new Article 9.2. on financial resources re-introduces the decommissioning funding issue with a very 'soft' formulation. Decommissioning financing has been one of the most contentious aspects of the ‘package’. It sparked controversy because the Commission’s original proposal:

    • called for a unique system to be adopted by all EU member states, irrespective of the prevailing conditions in each country.

    • spelt out that the assets of decommissioning funds were to be uniquely used for decommissioning costs, and were to be excluded from nuclear operators’ mainstream financial accounting and balance sheets.

  • in the European Council’s revised preamble to the proposal on safety, the role of the IAEA is strengthened by stating that the IAEA's standards and approaches constitute an internationally recognised framework of best practice on which national safety requirements are primarily based. In view of the Convention on Nuclear Safety and existing international safety standards, the efficiency and added value of the European Commission’s proposal on safety had been called into question during the European Parliamentary debates prior to the Parliament’s January votes on the ‘nuclear package’.

  • Article 12 of the Council’s proposal clarifies the role and competences of the Committee of Regulatory Authorities – placing stronger focus on the role of EU member states in the peer review mechanism and reporting.

On the waste Directive, the two main changes concern the timetables for the management of radioactive waste and the establishment of a Committee of Regulatory Authorities. As far as the timetables are concerned, the annex to the European Commission’s proposed Directive – setting up an indicative timescale for the development and operation of waste disposal facilities – has been deleted. In its current version, no reference to deadlines for the long-term management of radioactive waste appears in the Directive.

A new article has also been added to the waste Directive. This article foresees the creation of a Committee of Regulatory Authorities, composed of representatives of the regulatory bodies designated by each member state, to review the national reports and summary reports periodically submitted to the European Commission by each member state, and to assist the Commission in establishing guidelines for the content and timing of these reports.

On 31 March, the new compromise proposals were discussed in the Atomic Questions Group (AQG) – comprising delegates from the EU member states’ Brussels-based embassies to the EU. Very little came out of this meeting in terms of concrete results. A minority of member states – Finland, Germany, Sweden and the UK– have maintained their anti-Directive stance and, as such, threaten to block the European Council’s adoption of the legislation. These member states support a non-legally binding alternative to the nuclear safety Directive, which, significantly, does not have the backing of the European Parliament. However, what must be considered is that certain accession countries joining the EU next month, namely the Czech and Slovak Republics, Hungary, Lithuania and Slovenia, are likely to join this so-called ‘blocking minority’ in future European Council votes. Therefore, it is not likely that any final decisions on the package will be taken during the current Irish Presidency of the European Council.

The AQG continued its discussions on the package on 16 April, with no changes or developments to report. The Council Presidency is expected to bring the issue before the European Council’s Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) in early May.

For a detailed explanation of the issues concerning the ‘nuclear package’, please visit the ENS’s website:

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