In addition to regularly controlling the security status of nuclear facilities, improvements should be made to the legal framework of nuclear plant operations, Minister of State for EU Affairs, Enikő Győri, stressed at the plenary meeting of European Parliament in Strasbourg on 6 April.
Enikő Győri said misconceptions like suggesting that it took an external crisis for the European Union (EU) to realise the significance of this matter, must be dispelled,,“There is already a legally binding framework in place, in Europe in this field, for more than 25 years in fact; and we keep refining it, as with the 2009 Directive on Nuclear Safety.”
The State Minister reminded, “Nuclear safety is a continuous process through which standards are improved, lessons are learned in light of the events, such as what happened in Fukushima, and the safety of installations is regularly reviewed.”
Speaking about the nuclear situation in Japan, the Minister of State reaffirmed the readiness of the EU, to provide, “Continued and concrete support to the Japanese people, will be provided through humanitarian assistance or nuclear expertise.”
‘Stress test’ for safety
Enikő Győri reminded that the European Council has urged a multi-component EU response, including a comprehensive risk and safety assessment, commonly known as a stress test, of European nuclear plants. The Minister of State said the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group, and independent national regulators, are expected to lay out the practical steps of the stress test, by the end of May; and assessments can start in the summer. The Minister of State expressed her hope that, “The first lessons could then be drawn up by the end of the year.”
Improving legal regulation
Ms Győri also mentioned that the European Council had invited the Commission earlier, to review the existing legal and regulatory framework, related to the safety of nuclear facilities, and propose ways for their improvement. The State Minister stressed the need for further steps, ”In the meantime, we should continue with the legislative work under way, and adopt the proposed Directive on the management of spent fuel, and radioactive waste, so as to cover the whole life cycle of nuclear installations.”
Ms Győri also mentioned that the EU, should as a third step, invite neighbouring countries to join in with the precautionary measures. She added that the need for safety was a special consideration, whatever the energy source, ”we should not favour security of supply to the detriment of safety, be with respect to human health and the environment.”
The future of energy in Europe
”Given the current 30 % share of nuclear energy in electricity generation in Europe, none of the 14 Member States having made the choice of nuclear power, can decide to shut-down definitively its nuclear plants,” Enikő Győri suggested, and said that Member States should examine possible alternative energy sources and network-related questions, before making decisions about the future.
Enikő Győri also mentioned that the EU, “Will engage in the examination of the Energy Roadmap 2050 later this year, considering the respective contributions of all energy sources to the achievement of our climate change commitments, while meeting the objectives of energy policy, security of supply, sustainability and competitiveness.” She also stressed how important it is, “To communicate to the public, the underlying assumptions made, and the advantages and disadvantages of the different energy choices.”
Ms Győri said the Presidency intends to hold a detailed discussion about these issues, at the informal meeting of energy ministers in May.
The Council is ready to cooperate
At the end of the debate in Parliament, Enikő Győri emphasised on the timing of the stress tests of nuclear plants should be set, so that the first list of results can be ready for the European Council’s last meeting in December. She stressed that it is important to subject neighbouring countries with nuclear plants in the EU to similar tests.
Ms Győri did not conceal that the positions vary among Member States, and European political families concerning the future of nuclear energy, but there is a universal agreement on, “The need to act for the safety of power plants, and within a European framework.” Ms Győri underlined, the Hungarian Presidency has never intended or want to reach an agreement on the combination of energy types, the so-called energy mix, used by Member States in their energy supply. “This is impossible and perhaps not even necessary, within the foreseeable future,” she added.
Concerning the Commission’s Energy Roadmap 2050, Ms Győri said, in their informal meeting on 2-3 May in Gödöllő, energy ministers would conduct a preliminary debate on the document expected to be published in November. The Presidency will summarise the outcome of the exchange of opinions in a report, which will be submitted to the Energy Council’s official meeting in June.