COUNCIL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION
EU Presidency issues revised 'nuclear package'
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:
for a Council Directive (Euratom) on the management of spent nuclear
fuel and radioactive waste
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:
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
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
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
package’, please visit the