Nuclear energy on the agenda at December plenary

At the December plenary session, the Committee adopted several opinions on nuclear energy, put together by the TEN section.

  • Throwing our support behind new Euratom research and training programme

The 2021-2025 Euratom research and training programme is hugely important, says the EESC, and the budget allocated in the Commission proposal, EUR 2.4 billion, is proportionate to its objectives and should be maintained regardless of Brexit. Investing in education and training is a central factor in attracting young people to research and technology careers.

"We need to be very careful if the time comes for the UK not to be part of the Euratom programme any longer," said Giulia Barbucci, author of the opinion. "We have to pay attention in particular to research already in progress, shared infrastructure and the social impact on staff. Working conditions are a priority, both on British soil and elsewhere."

  • Backing the ITER project for unlimited sustainable energy in Europe

Clean energy is a top priority and fusion technologies could provide a long-term solution. The EESC emphasises the great potential of nuclear fusion for achieving clean energy and believes that the Commission should link the ITER project more closely to the European fusion research organised by the EUROfusion consortium.

The EESC supports the Commission's proposal on the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) and recognises that the high long-term investments needed to develop a fusion power plant entail industrial risk. Nevertheless, the rapporteur Ulrich Samm pointed out that "if successful, it would bring about such a disruptive innovation that it would significantly change the existing energy supply. Fusion represents an abundant and virtually inexhaustible fuel. ITER would function as an unlimited source of energy in Europe."

  • Endorsing the Commission's proposal on dismantling nuclear plants while calling for closer monitoring

The EESC fully supports the Commission's proposal on decommissioning nuclear facilities and managing radioactive waste. However, the Committee recommends adopting a more sustainable approach and closer monitoring of activities in sensitive areas such as the protection of workers from radiation. Involvement of civil society in the monitoring process is central. The social and economic consequences should also be assessed.

The author of the opinion, Rudy De Leeuw, stated that "Closing power plants is not the end of the nuclear energy cycle. The long-term disposal of nuclear waste is a key challenge for the EU. Nuclear decommissioning and radioactive waste disposal should be carried out on the basis of a sustainable energy mix approach, in accordance with the Paris Agreement." (mp)