Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Commission and Court of Auditors differ over nuclear safety

The European Commission has accepted a number of pertinent criticisms by the Court of Auditors of its operations in relation to nuclear safety in central and eastern Europe (CEEC) and in the new independent States (NIS). However, in a number of specific cases, the Commission d...
The European Commission has accepted a number of pertinent criticisms by the Court of Auditors of its operations in relation to nuclear safety in central and eastern Europe (CEEC) and in the new independent States (NIS). However, in a number of specific cases, the Commission does not agree with the Court's remarks, which are contained in a report, which the Court decided to adopt definitively regardless of the differences of opinion that still prevail on certain points.

In its reply to the Court's special report (25/98), the Commission stressed the positive achievement of the operations between 1990 and 1997:

"The PHARE and TACIS nuclear safety programmes have been implemented in a context, that, as the Court acknowledges, is particularly complex. Therefore, without denying the need to improve its assistance, the Commission takes satisfaction in the progress it has achieved, notably in developing with the programme partners a climate of trust and cooperation, in raising their awareness and know-how concerning nuclear safety issues, and in strengthening the National Nuclear regulatory Authorities of the partner countries. Safety culture is no longer unknown but still needs further strengthening."

The Commission claims that the reasoning in the Court's special report is flawed in claiming that the objective of external aid in the field of nuclear safety - including the aid given by the PHARE and TACIS programmes - was to bring the stock of Soviet-designed reactors up to a level of safety in line with international standards.

"However, the donors have never accepted this responsibility," declared the Commission, "and their objective has always been confined to helping the recipients to meet "their" own responsibilities in the field. Furthermore, the Commission was never going to be able to provide the 50 billion to 60 billion euro required to close down or modernise the 65 nuclear reactors in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union with 'donations' of around ECU 100 million-a-year, essentially in the form of technical assistance since the PHARE and TACIS rules strictly limit investment funding)."

The Commission did accept that there had been shortcomings in the manner in which its strategy had been translated into concrete projects. It attributed these shortcomings largely to the "urgency" with which the initial programmes were launched, the differences of perception between eastern and western experts, and the "inadequate staff" resources that were allocated. As a result, the Commission had to rely extensively on external consultants to draw up the nuclear safety programmes and their component projects. The Commission has addressed this issue by reaching agreement with the Joint Research Centre (JRC) to avail itself of in-house expertise in future, while recognising that the JRC cannot cover all the needs for nuclear expertise that arise in the course of implementation of the programme.

The Commission also acknowledged that the programmes had suffered from delays and management deficiencies and has adopted measures to redress this state of affairs.

The Commission remains worried about the high rate of staff turnover in its departments.

Finally, the Commission acknowledged that its general procedures are not always well adapted to the specific constraints of the nuclear safety programmes and that they have contributed to delays in their implementation. However, the Commission stressed that these procedures had, in some cases, been imposed by the Council.

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