Nuclear energy: EESC endorses Commission's proposal on dismantling nuclear plants but calls for closer monitoring

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The European Economic and Social Committee (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.

In the opinion on dismantling nuclear reactors, adopted at the December plenary session and drafted by Rudy De Leeuw, the EESC urges the Commission to adopt a more sustainable development-oriented approach in the choice of energy sources and calls for safe and sustainable management of waste generated. Closing power plants is not the end of the nuclear energy cycle, said Mr De Leeuw. The long-term disposal of nuclear waste is a key challenge for the EU. Nuclear decommissioning and radioactive waste should be carried out on the basis of a sustainable energy mix approach, in accordance with the Paris Agreement,he continued.

  • Improving the monitoring process, including the social dimension

It is essential to strengthen the key performance indicators used to monitor the progress of decommissioning and radioactive waste management as well as their financial costs and risks. Performance in relation to protecting workers from radiation needs to be included. Activities funded by the EU should promote high-quality jobs and at the same time comply with the highest safety and radiation protection levels. In addition to experts and authorities, civil society organisations should be involved and provided with assistance to enable them to participate in this monitoring process.

  • Impact at the social and economic level

The EESC also highlights the importance of measuring the economic and social consequences of dismantling. The impact on the labour market, health indicators and the structural development of Member States' regions should be assessed. It is also important to seize the opportunity presented by these dismantling activities for providing additional theoretical and practical training to local workforces in areas that are critical for the future. However, training requires funding. The knowledge acquired in the area of dismantling and on the issue of training workers should therefore be spread right across the EU.

  • Concerns over reactor dismantling in Lithuania

Specific concern is expressed by the Committee in relation to the dismantling of the Ignalina plant in Lithuania. The budget set by the Commission only covers 70% of the needs for the period after 2020, indicating a lack of solidarity and financial assistance for an operation that is also affecting neighbouring countries. The successful dismantling of this reactor is the most significant challenge facing the European Union in terms of nuclear safety and the priority should be to ensure that the risk to EU citizens is reduced.




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Nuclear waste