European Atomic Energy Community

Die Europaflagge

At European level, the agreement on atomic energy linking all 28 European Union member states arose from the treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom Treaty). The Euratom Treaty is one of the Treaties of Rome signed in 1957. The European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) shares organs with the European Union, but remains an independent body.

Functions of the European Atomic Energy Community

Pursuant to Article 2 of the Euratom Treaty, Euratom’s functions include: 

The establishment of uniform safety standards to protect the health of workers and the general public

In 1959 Articles 31 and 32 in the chapter on health and safety of the Euratom Treaty set the legal parameters applicable to date for the protection against the dangers arising from exposure to ionising radiation, which affects numerous aspects of life. Recently, Council Directive 2013/59/Euratom of 5 December 2013 laying down basic safety standards for protection against the dangers arising from exposure to ionising radiation, which entered into force in 2014, significantly expanded the already broad scope of European radiation protection legislation by including, for instance, regulations on the protection against natural radiation sources (e.g. soil-based radon). The directive also sets out detailed requirements for emergency response plans and calls for closer cooperation among member states to secure uniform emergency response measures. The health and safety chapter of the Euratom Treaty will continue to be a basic reference for effective radiation protection across the EU.

Directive 2009/71/Euratom and the amended Directive 2014/87/Euratom, which are based on /derived from Articles 31 and 32 of the Euratom Treaty, establish the legal framework for a uniform safety level of nuclear safety throughout the EU.

Also based on the Euratom Treaty, a transparent EU-wide risk and safety assessment of nuclear power plants, the EU stress test, was carried out in 2012. Representatives from all EU member states participated in the test, which was led by the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG) . As a follow-up to the review an action plan was drawn up, which maps out the future course of action. For further information, please click here.

In 2011 the Council of the European Union adopted Council Directive 2011/70/Euratom establishing a Community framework for the responsible and safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste, again based on the Euratom Treaty and in particular based on the pertinent Articles mentioned above. The directive is aimed at establishing, where needed and expanding where in place, a uniform EU-wide framework for the responsible and safe disposal of spent fuel rods and radioactive waste. It is the task of the member states to take suitable steps nationally to guarantee a high level of safety in nuclear waste management. This includes in particular the drawing up of national disposal programmes which set out how countries intend to implement their national strategies for responsible and safe disposal of radioactive waste.

Pursuant to Article 37 of the Euratom Treaty, every member state is obliged to supply the European Commission with general details relating to any plan for the disposal of radioactive waste. The European Commission then delivers its opinion after consulting with the group of experts referred to in Article 31 of the Euratom Treaty.

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Promotion of research and dissemination of technical information

At regular intervals, the European Commission publishes a list of nuclear energy research fields which it feels require further research. In addition, the Commission also founded the Joint Research Centre (JRC), which works on Community nuclear research and conducts Community research into areas such as environmental protection and food safety.

Regular and equitable supply of ores and nuclear fuels to all EU users

A common supply policy ensures that the supply of ores, source materials and special fissile materials is in line with the principle of equal access. This task is entrusted to the Euratom Supply Agency.

Monitoring of the use of nuclear fuels in the interest of the member states’ external and internal security (safeguards)

Euratom is responsible for ensuring that civil nuclear materials are not diverted for other (in particular military) purposes through use of suitable monitoring measures. Euratom has the sole responsibility for this task. The Euratom Treaty provides for a comprehensive and strict monitoring system which allows the European Commission to send inspectors into the sovereign territory of member states. Euratom safeguards and IAEA safeguards are agreed within the scope of trilateral treaties involving member states, the Commission and the IAEA.

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Exercise of the right to ownership of special fissile materials

Special fissile materials (for example plutonium 239, enriched uranium, confer Article 197 of the Euratom Treaty) are the property of the Community. Member states, individuals or companies have the unlimited right to use and consumption of special fissile materials.

Establishment of suitable relations with other countries and international organisations

Euratom aims to foster progress in the peaceful use of nuclear energy through cooperation with other countries and international organisations (for example IAEA). Euratom agreements currently exist with numerous countries such as the United States of America, Australia and Canada.

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