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ESC Opinion on the nuclear industries in the European Union

The Economic and Social Committee of the European Communities has adopted an opinion on the Commission communication on a draft "Illustrative Nuclear Programme" (PINC), which attempts to set out a number of basic common principles to be followed by all Member States with regar...
The Economic and Social Committee of the European Communities has adopted an opinion on the Commission communication on a draft "Illustrative Nuclear Programme" (PINC), which attempts to set out a number of basic common principles to be followed by all Member States with regard to the development of nuclear energy.

The Committee welcomed the Commission's communication, put forward in September 1996, and expressed its support for the proposed principles. The ESC, however, voiced its concern about the future of the European nuclear industry and the impact that its probable decline would have on the EU energy market and on environmental concerns (particularly the reduction of CO2 emissions).

Although nuclear power currently produces one third of the EU's electricity, the ESC believes that, given the extent of public concern about safety and ongoing developments within the energy market, it is unlikely that nuclear generation will be continued in most Member States when existing plants come to the end of their operating lives in the years after 2005-2010. The prospect of such a development raises serious strategic issues which need to be addressed in the Commission's proposal.

The Commission is also urged to review the activities of the PHARE and TACIS programmes in the area of nuclear safety in the Central and East European countries (CEECs) and the New Independent States (NIS). The ESC stresses the importance of this in view of the particular concern over the dangers of nuclear facilities in these countries, and the implications of Soviet-designed reactors being brought within the boundaries of the EU when enlargement takes place.

The Commission is also asked to consider including attention to dangerous nuclear military installations within the scope of its activities. It is proposed that action to alleviate concerns about nuclear safety in the east is added to the Commission's proposed set of principles.

The Committee notes that the key issue for the nuclear industry in the coming years will be to address the question of its overall acceptability to the public, particularly with regard to the transport, handling and disposal of radioactive waste. The Commission is urged to support the Member States and the industry in this area.

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