Belgium's comments on proposal for application of Euratom safeguards

June 14, 2002

Brussels, 13 June 2002

Proposal for a Council Decision approving a Commission Regulation on the application of Euratom safeguards. Cover note. Brussels, 5 June 2002 (12.06) (document 9630/02 ATO 70 CONOP 12). Full text

New Euratom Regulation on the application of Euratom safeguards - Belgium's comments

The document was submitted to the Belgian parties involved in applying this Regulation. It was examined with care and prompted a large number of comments, questions and requests for clarification. These comments attempt to summarise the points of concern raised but cannot, at this stage, be considered exhaustive.

General remarks

A first remark is the surprise provoked by the new document, as it does not reflect the various observations and questions already uttered on 18 December 2001 on the room document on the same subject (mail 4-1- LC-12/01-1). The document does not respond to the legitimate requests prompted by those changes.

The new rationale of the Regulation seems to be out of phase with that of the Additional Protocol.

In fact, the safeguards proposed now go beyond the requirements relating to the obligations that arise out of it.

Belgium does not support that approach; it would prefer the new Regulation to restrict itself, in the provisions relating to the Additional Protocol, to satisfying the requirements that the Additional Protocol imposes. In addition, numerous practical questions remain, in particular regarding the new forms which, it would appear, are not suitable for the communication of information to the IAEA.

Why not use the "reporter-protocol" format?

As regards the follow-up of waste, we do not believe that it is covered by Chapter VII of the Treaty.

Furthermore, the extended safeguards agreed with the IAEA provide for follow-up only in the case of waste that is a potential source of special fissile materials such as waste containing HEU, Pu or U-233. We therefore do not see the necessity for reporting on other types of waste or that it is appropriate for the cost of it to be borne by a body responsible for monitoring materials.

As regards waste containing HEU, Pu or U-233, Article 2a (vi) of INFCIRC/540 specifies that there are no requirements concerning source materials once they are in their final non-nuclear form, and Article 2a (viii) shows that the IAEA's concern regarding follow-up relates only to the potential fraudulent re-use of waste to extract special fissile elements.

Such extraction would have to be discreet and fast, which means that there would have to be significant levels of those elements. The vitrified products do not seem to us to meet that criterion.

Irradiated fuel might possibly meet that criterion, but because of its high specific residual radioactivity it would necessitate heavy-duty installations, which would not be very discreet.

Apart from the fact that Belgium does not support the principle of waste reporting that is extensive in relation to the obligations involved in the Additional Protocol, its application would probably have major implications for various installations and consequences that are still difficult to assess.

The document includes no description of the physical inspection of conditioned waste; certain installations have pointed out that in the case of medium- and high-radioactivity conditioned waste any physical inspection is completely ruled out.

The ESO has admitted that the new rules require changes both in computer software and in the actual design of the new system, necessitating a new approach. At present it is hard to see how those changes will be put into practice. The reporting formats imposed ought to allow operators some flexibility. In addition, the manner of communication must guarantee the confidentiality of the data.

There are still problems in connection with the definitions of the numerous terms used, which are unsatisfactory because they are insufficiently clear (e.g. definition of "site"), they leave uncertainties in certain translations (e.g. "omzettingsfabriek"), because their transposition into the text is just incorrect (e.g. "depleted plutonium" in the Dutch text instead of "depleted uranium") or because the expression used makes the text hard to understand (e.g., "kritische nul energie installatie").

Furthermore, with respect to the previous Regulation, several definitions have disappeared or been changed. The reasons for and the implications of some of those changes do not seem clear to us (e.g. disappearance of the "strategic point" and changes in the definitions of nuclear materials).

The time allowed for implementation is too short and there is no provision for any transitional period, which is likely to cause problems for some installations.

The complexity of the document has been stressed unanimously; it requires great expertise on the part of all those involved.

As regards the process for the approval of the Regulation, Article 79 of the Treaty provides for the Commission to draw up a Regulation and for the Council to approve it. Article 85, however, provides that the procedures for applying the safeguards laid down in Chapter VII may be adapted, but in that event the Council must act unanimously on a proposal for amendment. Belgium would like some clarification from the Council and Commission Legal Services in order to determine which article is applicable to the present process of revising the Regulation.

Specific remarks

The unit adopted for accounting purposes is the gram, which is excessive in certain cases where the kilogram is a more acceptable unit.

To treat the problem of enriched uranium in the same way as depleted uranium is going too far, as the level of risk is of quite another order. Ought not the constraints for these two cases to be dissociated? Let us not support the addition of point (g) to Article 9.

In Article 32 the definition of the "processing of waste" is unclear, and does not allow of classification according to type of conditioning; furthermore, the imposition of campaign notification two hundred days before the start is unrealistic from the practical point of view and the period ought to be reduced to eight days. In the same context, it is not necessarily possible to state the number of articles in the advance notification as that number is established only after the processing and conditioning of the waste (Annex XII).

Many new ICR codes have been added in the new Regulation. At the moment it is difficult to measure exactly the impact that those changes will have and this matter ought to be discussed in depth with the ESO.

Annex II involves a complete revision of the way in which inventory changes are recorded (ICR) and requires, inter alia, additional information and certain questions concerning the weight of fissile material: must it be submitted for Pu 239 and Pu 241 and what is the implication for accounting systems that do not include those categories at present? Under IC code MP what levels are taken into account for the different categories of nuclear materials?

General conclusions

All parties want a great deal of explanation and clarification of this new Regulation. In this context it would be desirable to hold an information meeting for the parties involved with ESO specialists in each Member State that requests one. The present system, consisting of presentation and discussion of the document in the Working Party on Atomic Questions, does not permit examination of the matter in sufficient depth and it is consequently difficult to adopt a position, far less approve, the Regulation.

The new requirements imposed by this Regulation will produce major changes in existing accounting systems. Would it not be better to allow installations a fairly wide choice by letting them either adapt their present systems or, if they so request, by providing them with the new software designed by the ESO? A great deal of anxiety is also being expressed concerning the cost of these changes, which ought to be borne by the ESO, as the installations will not derive any benefit from them.

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