EU affirms nuclear safety need in CEE states

Council of Ministers stresses that accession countries must achieve equivalence in safety levels

EU justice ministers have reaffirmed that central and eastern European (CEE) countries applying to join the Union will be expected to substantially enhance levels of safety in their nuclear power stations. At a meeting last Thursday at which CEE countries were also represented, EU ministers stressed that nuclear safety in the candidate states should be enhanced "so it reaches a level corresponding to the technological, regulatory and operational state-of-the-art in the Union".

Hitherto, nuclear safety standards have been a national responsibility within the EU and there is no harmonised standard. This is also the first time that nuclear safety has been an issue in negotiations between the EU and countries applying to join the club. The subject was not discussed, for example, when Finland and Sweden, both of which have nuclear power stations, joined the EU in 1995.

In a separate statement, Austrian environment minister Martin Bartenstein has demanded that four nuclear stations in CEE countries be shut down as safety risks. These are the two oldest reactors at the Bohunice power station in Slovakia along with Bulgaria's Kozloduji power station and Ignalia in Lithuania. The EU already called some years ago for the latter two stations to be closed by 2000 after EU experts assessed safety standards at the sites.

The EU has not previously made an official demand for reactors at Bohunice to be closed, but German financing for safety improvements at Slovakia's Mochovce power station were given on condition that they would be shut down, according to the German foreign ministry. Slovenské Elektrárne, which owns both Bohunice and Mochovce, denies that it agreed to such a deal.

Follow Up:
EU Council of Ministers, tel: +32 2 285 6111; Austrian environment ministry, tel: +43 1 515 225 051; Slovenské Elektrárne, tel: +421 7 569 1111.

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