Nuclear energy: EESC throws its support behind new Euratom research and training programme

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The 2021-2025 Euratom research and training programme is hugely important, says the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), and budget allocated in the Commission proposal 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.

In an opinion drafted by Giulia Barbucci and adopted at the December plenary session, the EESC backs the Commission proposal on the research and training programme of the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) for 2021-2025. The programme is part of the 2021-2027 Horizon Europe framework programme for research and innovation and will run for five years, with a possible two-year extension to match the duration of Horizon Europe and the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF).

  • Budget

The new Euratom research and training programme will be given a financial allocation of EUR 2.4 billion. This budget is proportionate to the objectives set, in the EESC's view, and should remain the same regardless of the result of the Brexit negotiations. In this respect, the Committee advises managing the United Kingdom's exit with the utmost care: We need to be very careful if the time comes for the UK not to be part of the Euratom programme any longer," says Ms Barbucci. "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.

  • Education and training

Education and training play an essential role in attracting young people to scientific and technological subjects. As it stands, there are not enough European researchers in these fields to meet demand from industry. Investing in these areas, the Committee believes, will help increase numbers in the future. Under the new programme, nuclear researchers will be able to participate in education and training projects such as the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions, and apply for specific financial support to gain access to European and international research infrastructure.

  • Nuclear safety

The Commission proposal represents continuity with previous programmes on nuclear fusion research and development, nuclear fission and safety, and the Joint Research Centre (JRC), but also includes new areas of activity such as radiation protection and the decommissioning of nuclear power plants. The Committee emphasises that nuclear safety is a dynamic concept. It entails constant monitoring of existing legislation, throughout the life span of the plants, and making adjustments to it in accordance with the latest developments and innovations. With reference to reactors located on borders between EU countries, there needs to be a higher level of coordination between Member States and national and local authorities. These plants need specific attention in case of cross-border accidents, and a mechanism should be set up that can provide rapid responses to unforeseeable circumstances. Citizens and workers should also have access to effective information and training activities.




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