Brussels, 06 Sep 2005
Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik has said that it makes sense for European countries to collaborate in the field of nuclear research and has called for extra funding for the EURATOM programme, as foreseen under the Commission's proposals for the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).
Speaking at an international conference on 'nuclear energy for a new Europe' in his home country of Slovenia on 5 September, the Commissioner argued that satisfying Europe's demand for energy requires a comprehensive research effort focused on a broad range of energy technologies, including nuclear.
'Nuclear power provides approximately one-third of Europe's electricity and is by far the most significant source of [...] carbon-free generation available today. It makes a major contribution to limiting our greenhouse gas emissions and enhances both our independence and security of supply,' said Mr Potocnik.
He acknowledged that nuclear energy provokes significant public and political controversy, particularly with regard to the smooth operation of nuclear plants and the management of radioactive waste, but stressed that these are exactly the issues that are addressed in the Community's EURATOM programme, alongside other priorities such as research into fusion energy.
Under the Sixth EURATOM Framework Programme, 'some 200 million euro over five years are being spent on 'shared-cost' actions in the field of fission and radiation protection,' revealed Mr Potocnik. This shared-cost model ensures that up to half a billion euro is being spent on cutting edge research in crucial areas, such as management of radioactive waste, radiation protection and education and training, he added.
'These are all areas of concern for many Member States and are of major political importance to the European Union as a whole. It therefore makes sense for Europe to collaborate as much as possible in order to deal with them,' the Commissioner continued. Collaboration has always been a defining characteristic of the EURATOM programme, he stressed, and by bringing together the key research stakeholders and achieving consensus, Europe can more effectively address its shared challenges.
'But all these challenges I've mentioned before need proper funding, and I believe that this requirement is properly reflected in the Commission's current proposal for the Seventh EURATOM Framework Programme,' argued Mr Potocnik. 'And yet, signs are that the future EU research budget could remain close to that in the last compromise proposal in June, i.e. similar to what we have now. [...] It is hard to believe that Member States would compensate a decrease in the proposed European research budget by increasing research effort at national level. And even if they did so, this would not lead to a more coordinated, unified approach and the desired creation of a European Research Area.'
In conclusion, Mr Potocnik said: 'Ultimately, the decision whether or not to use nuclear power - just like any other energy source - is a political and societal one taken at the national level. However, this should be a decision based on knowledge, not one taken in ignorance. Research can and must supply this knowledge.' To download the full text of Mr Potocnik's speech (in PDF format), please: click here