EU Nuclear Safety Proposal 

This proposed Council Directive would improve and harmonise the safety standards of nuclear installations across the EU by establishing basic obligations and principles.


The European Atomic Energy Community joined the Convention on Nuclear Safety (CNS) in 1994, committing itself to observing internationally recognised levels of nuclear safety. One issue however is that nuclear safety procedures and practices still vary from one Member State to another. This proposal attempts to address this. It does not go into specific details of how higher levels of safety in nuclear installations can be achieved however; instead it would create a legislative framework for nuclear safety that maintains and strengthens the principle of national responsibility for the safety of nuclear installations.

Main elements of the proposal

The proposal reaffirms that the prime responsibility for the safety of nuclear installations will be with the licence holder of the nuclear installation, under the close supervision of a reinforced and independent national regulatory body. The safety measures and controls to be implemented in a nuclear installation can only be decided by this regulatory body. The measures will then have to be applied by the licence holder.

Member States will have to establish a regulatory framework to govern the safety of nuclear installations too. This must include:

• national safety requirements

• a system of licensing

• control of nuclear installations

• prohibition of operation without a licence

• a system of regulatory supervision

• enforcement mechanisms

The long term aim of establishing a legal framework is to improve safety and public confidence.

Regulatory Bodies

Member States will have to ensure that regulatory bodies are: a) independent, and b)  free from any influence that may affect safety. The regulatory body will have to be provided with adequate authority, competence and financial and human resources to be entrusted with the regulation of the safety of nuclear installations and ensuring the implementation of safety regulations.

The regulatory body will have responsibility for:

• granting licences

• monitoring the application on siting, design, construction, commissioning, and operation or decommissioning of nuclear installations

• ensuring the licence holder has sufficient staff in numbers and skills to run the installation

• preparing at least one self-assessment every 10 years

The regulatory body will also be subject to periodic international peer review by the IAEA International Regulatory Review Service (IRRS).

Nuclear safety assessments, investigations, controls and enforcement actions must be carried out by the regulatory body throughout the lifetime of a nuclear installation and during its decommissioning. Regulatory bodies will have the power to withdraw the operating licence in case of serious or repeated safety rule breaches as well as the power to order the suspension of operations if safety cannot be fully guaranteed.

Creating a Harmonised Framework

Member States will have to respect the International Atomic Energy Agency Safety Fundamentals (2006) and will also have to respect the obligations and requirements of the Convention on Nuclear Safety (CNS).

Member States will have to ensure that the applicable principles laid down in the IAEA Safety Fundamentals are implemented to ensure a high level of safety in nuclear installations, including:

• effective arrangements against potential radiological hazards

• accident prevention and response

• long term management of all produced radioactive materials

• information of the population and the authorities of the neighbouring states

To cope with the lack of trained inspectors, appropriate education and training opportunities in nuclear safety must be provided by Member States in cooperation with each other.

Member States will also be required to develop additional safety requirements for new nuclear power reactors in line with safety levels developed by the Western European Nuclear Regulators Association (WENRA) and in close collaboration with the European High Group on Nuclear Safety and Waste Management (HLG). Member States must also ensure that the regulatory bodies effectively inform the public of any actions taken.

Scope of the Directive

The Directive does not affect Council Directive 96/29/Euratom on basic safety standards and these rules will apply in addition to the proposed Directive. Member States will have two years to comply with this Directive and will have to submit a report to the Commission on the implementation of this Directive after, at most, three years after the entry into force of the Directive. A report must be submitted every three years after that. The Commission will then present its own report to the Council on its findings. Member States can also choose to impose stricter safety measures than those contained in the Directive.