New Projects, Nuclear, Reactors

EU commission called on to reveal nuclear funding secrets

1 March 2004 – The European Commission faces a referral to the Ombudsman if it does not release important details of a EU project to finance the construction of a new nuclear plant in Romania, Friends of the Earth Europe (FOEE) said today.

Commissioners may decide later this month (24 March) to grant an as yet unspecified ‘Euratom Loan’ towards the completion of the Cernavoda 2 nuclear power station. Construction of the Canadian-designed reactor, situated on the Danube River close to the Black Sea, began in 1983.

Friends of the Earth has written to all Commissioners calling for the funding decision to be postponed until a number of key assessment reports and other basic information have been released and can be considered. This includes simple facts such as the value of the proposed loan, which FOEE believes should automatically be in the public domain but the Commission seems determined to keep secret.

The information and reports were requested under EU rules on openness, access and transparency, introduced by the Treaty of Amsterdam. However, the different Commission services concerned have either refused to supply reports, granted only partial access, or failed to respond within the period allowed.

In one case, staff working for Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström told FOEE that the projects environmental assessment report may be viewed at the Commission’s offices but may not be photocopied. Under EU law, this would be illegal, but under Romanian law, where the assessment was prepared, it is apparently normal. Romania’s failure to apply EU rules (acquis communautaire) should exclude it from EU support.

FOE Europe Campaigner Mark Johnston said: “The Commission must not act to promote nuclear power in secret and on arbitrary criteria.

“The Cernavoda decision must be postponed while information about it has been released and can be assessed. As EU citizens, we demand our rights under the treaties to openness and transparency, and to participate in decisions.

“Euratom loans are an unfair market distortion that disadvantage alternative energy options. There is no systematic comparison with non-nuclear investments, and no equivalent help for renewables or energy efficiency
projects.

“The claim that Euratom loans are linked to improvement in safety and efficiency has never been demonstrated, as neither specific details or any project nor any criteria have been made public. On the basis on the adopted regulation, which lacks any substantive safety criteria, simply putting a larger padlock on the front gate would likely qualify the project.”

FOE intends to make Cernavoda a test case of EU nuclear policy. The latest draft of a new constitutional treaty does not end the EU1s special and exclusive promotion of nuclear power via the Euratom Community, despite at least seven Member States calling for this.

Meanwhile, the Commission has proposed a significant increase of €2000m in the Euratom Loans regime that, if approved, would be used to finance other new reactors anywhere within the EU.

“EU leaders must also tackle the Euratom Community and Treaty in the IGC,” added Mr Johnston. “The Irish Presidency should provide leadership on this issue. If the European Union continues to promote nuclear in primary law, then the ratification of the new constitutional treaty will be put at risk.”