Nuclear-dominated Forum aims to weaken Europe’s nuclear safety standards
Prague, International — Greenpeace activists projected messages, including ‘Nuclear Undermines Climate Protection’ and ‘Energy [R]evolution Now!’, against the backdrop of the illuminated Prague Castle, drawing attention to the dangers of weakening European nuclear safety standards and the risk of seriously biased discussions in advance of today’s opening of the second meeting of the European Nuclear Energy Forum.
Largely away from public scrutiny, the Forum will consider a proposal to lower nuclear safety standards across Europe to those of the lowest level applied in any Member State. This could place a stranglehold on national authorities wishing to impose stricter standards. And by artificially lowering the costs of any future nuclear plants, lenient safety standards would help open the door for an expansion of nuclear power and expose the environment and public safety to greater nuclear risks.
Hosted by the Czech Prime Minister, and attended by senior European politicians and decision makers from the power sector, the Forum is proving to be a trade fair for the nuclear lobby. The Forum’s opening session offers a privileged position to the CEO of the French nuclear company AREVA to promote the supposedly cheaper and safer ‘European Pressurised Reactor’ (EPR). Greenpeace argues that placing faith in new nuclear reactors undermines energy security and the chances of successfully combating climate change.
The Forum was set up after EU Heads of State and Government in March 2007 endorsed a European Commission proposal “to organise a broad discussion among all relevant stakeholders on the opportunities and risks of nuclear energy”. However, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth each with one seat in the Forum, are the sole attendees from civil society.
”We welcome an open and fair debate on nuclear energy. The arguments about cost, safety, energy security and tackling climate change are all in favour of clean energy options,” said Jan Beranek, nuclear energy campaigner from Greenpeace International. “What is happening here is a mockery of a supposedly open process. The nuclear industry is arguing for yet more financial support at the expense of safety, transparency and respect for public opinion,” he continued.
A Eurobarometer survey of public opinion on energy technologies, published in 2007, found that only 20 percent of people in the European Union support the use of nuclear power(1). Proposals by the Forum are intended to feed into the development of European Union policy and possibly legislation. Since commencing in November 2007, the Forum has been moving towards softening safety standards and pushing nuclear acceptance.
At the same time, real world events have demonstrated that nuclear power remains as risky and controversial as ever. In Spain, information about a recent leak of radioactive material was kept secret. In Slovakia, construction work is under preparation on the Mochovce nuclear plant, which is based on a design from the 1970s and has no ‘containment’ procedures in place to deal with external impacts. In Finland and France, construction of the latest generation of French EPR reactors is showing up the serious lack of competence in the nuclear industry on issues as fundamental as pouring the concrete base for the reactors, poor welding and inadequate and sometimes non-existent quality control.
“It is time for politicians to stop listening to nuclear industry propaganda,” said Beranek. “Problems of safety, nuclear waste and soaring costs remain unsolved. Every Euro wasted on nuclear power is a Euro better invested in clean, renewable energy and energy savings. The world can ill afford to waste time ironing out the complexities of nuclear power when these simpler and safer energy options have long been proven to deliver quicker.”
High-level attendance at the Forum includes the Slovak Prime Minister, the EU Energy Commissioner, a variety of Czech and Slovak ministers and senior energy decision makers from the public and private sectors
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