Report of Council working party meeting on nuclear issues, 30 January 2002

March 11, 2002

Brussels, 8 March 2002

Meeting of the Working Party on Atomic Questions on 30 January 2002. Memorandum. Brussels, 11 February 2002 (19.02) (document 6164/02 LIMITE ATO 17). Full text

1. Euratom-Japan: progress report

The Commission representative reported that an agreement had been reached on physical protection and the intellectual property issues, and that the formalities for Japan to initial had begun and should result in Japan ratifying in the late spring. Once initialled, the text could be circulated and the Commission would endeavour to answer the questions raised by several delegations during the negotiations. The languages to be used would be confined to J+EN+FR for the main agreement and to J+EN for the scientific cooperation agreement. Replying to D, which recalled its difficulties about the proposed language arrangements, the Commission representative observed that the Japanese negotiators had pointed to cases in the past where Euratom had been satisfied with simplified language arrangements. D asked the Commission to provide these precedents.

2. Seminar on the prevention of radiological risks in the recycling of metals (Seville, 23-24 January 2002)

ES presented the results of the seminar, which was attended by representatives from industry, control authorities and the Commission, and announced its intention of following the seminar up with a Council Resolution. Given the common basis for radiological protection standards in the Member States, the experience of certain Member States in integrated systems for preventing radiological risks in metal recycling and the absence of specific regulations for this sector, measures at national and/or Community level could be identified to improve prevention in this field and reduce illegal movements of radioactive materials:
­ measures at national level:
­ voluntary agreements, with or without regulations;
­ the resources required for the effective operation of the system;
­ an effective procedure for controlling detected materials;
­ an action plan for incidents involving contamination in the course of production;
­ a rapid information mechanism;
­ a training plan for workers in the sector.
­ measures at Community level:
­ promoting the establishment and homogeneity of the relevant systems;
­ fostering cooperation and exchange of information between national systems;
­ contributing to the harmonisation of border controls and facilitating the safe return of imported materials.

These measures would be included in the draft Resolution.

Delegations and the Commission welcomed the initiative and the principle of a Resolution, subject to any detailed comments which they were asked to submit by 8 February. Initial comments were made regarding:
­ potential difficulties in guaranteeing in all cases the safe return of radioactive materials to their country of origin, whereas it was clearly more important to ensure that such materials were controlled;
­ the need to avoid duplication with existing instruments (e.g. the Joint Convention);
­ the need to maintain a choice between voluntary and legally binding measures;
­ the advisability or otherwise of harmonising national systems.

3. Euratom Safeguards Office

B presented the main points of the memorandum submitted by B/D/ES/EL/L/NL/P (5646/02) on the Office's missions. Some delegations could support the entire memorandum (IRL) or part of it (A: intensifying the Office's collaboration with the IAEA), while others (F/UK) wished they had been consulted. All delegations wanted to be regularly informed by the Commission on the reform process under way.

F recalled its position, in particular concerning the relationship of the Office's controls with action by the IAEA and the advisability of reviewing the conformity controls carried out by Euratom. UK supported the cost cutting efforts being made and the development of cooperation with the IAEA, and stressed the need for the control system resulting from the present reform to have sufficient credibility to maintain the effectiveness of the safeguards.

D emphasised the legal and moral case for the Commission being responsible for controls under the Additional Protocol and noted that any change in the Commission's approach on this matter would lead to a review of German legislation. Furthermore, the D delegation was not convinced that the modest savings anticipated justified fundamentally reviewing the Office's tasks and responsibilities in this field. FIN pointed out that a lot of factors affected the Office's operating conditions and that this could lead to a reduction in its control activities inconsistent with Article 77 of the EAEC. Maintaining the required level of control would then justify certain activities being transferred back to Member States. L recalled that the control activities of some Member States had been transferred to the Office under certain conditions and that other tasks had been entrusted to the Office under the Additional Protocol. It considered that the Office's overall workload depended essentially on the extent of the nuclear activities of those Member States which had transferred no tasks to the Office or only a few.

The Commission representative stated that the process was long term and that the experts' report was due to be submitted towards the third week of February to Commissioner de Palacio and would be followed by a communication from Ms de Palacio to the College of Commissioners as well as by a communication on the Additional Protocol. He recalled that when the Protocol was adopted, the Commission had made a statement specifying that certain conditions had to be met by the Member States for the Commission to fully accept and perform the obligations under the Protocol. He observed that talks were being held with the IAEA on arrangements for cooperation.

The chairman concluded by saying that this point would be taken up again at a forthcoming meeting and asked the Commission to keep the Working Party regularly informed.

4. Protocol amending the Paris Convention on Third Party Liability in the field of Nuclear Energy

NL confirmed its support for option (iii). DK said it was flexible on the choice of option. EL/P entered scrutiny reservations. EL stressed that the option chosen should result in the highest compensation possible under the liability arrangements.

The Commission representative remarked that the Commission had not yet defined its position, which should have been announced on 31 January. Several delegations (UK/I/F) deeply regretted that the Commission had been unable to state its position in good time for the negotiations in progress despite having had its attention drawn to the matter in October 2001, and stressed that the delay could only send the wrong signal with respect to the Union's position on this important dossier.

5. KEDO

The Commission representative reported in particular on:
­ third-party liability in nuclear matters: North Korea had proposed a meeting in North Korea from 19 to 23 March to discuss the substance of the matter.
­ large-scale civil engineering project: cost increases were expected.
­ construction of the reactor: the change of supplier was expected to result in an additional cost of approximately US$ 1 billion.
­ next meeting of the Executive Board: scheduled for 26 and February in New York.

Replying to a question from UK, the Presidency confirmed that it would be represented at that meeting.

6. Other business

­ Undertaking to decommission Ignalina 2:

In response to B's query on the financial assistance envisaged by the Community in return for the undertaking given by Lithuania, the Commission representative said that the Commission was in the process of finalising its position. The chairman of the Working Party pointed out that this issue was not the responsibility of the Working Party on Atomic Questions. EL nevertheless considered that undertakings of this kind should be taken into account when assessing responses by candidate countries to recommendations in the Council's report on nuclear safety.

­ Euratom-Uzbekistan

The Commission representative reported that this Agreement had been initialled by the Commission on 29 January and would therefore be forwarded to the Council shortly.

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