The Convention on Nuclear Safety came about in the 1990s in the wake of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor accident. It was established on Germany's initiative – an effort in which the German Federal Government played a key role. The Convention serves as an effective tool between Contracting Parties to improve Nuclear Safety worldwide. Germany became a Contracting Party on 20 April 1997, the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) joined as a supranational organisation on 30 April 2000. To date, 85 countries have acceded to the Convention.
Objectives of the Convention
The objectives of the Convention are set out in Article 1 of the Convention. They are as follows:
- to achieve and maintain a high level of nuclear safety worldwide through the enhancement of national measures and international cooperation including, where appropriate, safety-related technical cooperation;
- to establish and maintain effective defences in nuclear installations against potential radiological hazards in order to protect individuals, society and the environment from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation from such installations;
- to prevent accidents with radiological consequences and mitigate such consequences should they occur.
Reporting obligations and review meetings
In support of the aforementioned objectives, the Convention sets out obligations to which Contracting Parties become subject upon acceding to the Convention and for the fulfilment of which they are responsible. Each Contracting Party's obligations include the compilation of a report, prior to each of the review meetings held every three years, on progress it has achieved on nuclear safety and on the measures it has taken to implement each of its obligations under the Convention. The Parties are also obligated to stand ready to discuss and justify their submitted reports. The report must be submitted to the Secretariat of the Convention on Nuclear Safety at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna approximately half a year prior to the review meeting and is then made available to all Contracting Parties.
Germany played a key role in anchoring the principles of the Vienna Declaration on Nuclear Safety (VDNS) of 9 February 2015 in the review process of the Convention. Within the framework of a diplomatic conference in Vienna, the international community decided to anchor technical principles to avoid releases of radioactivity as a result of accidents and thus set another signal for improving the safety of nuclear power plants. The contracting states are thus obliged to report on the anchoring and implementation of the technical principles that already apply to the member states of the European Union in the national regulations.