November 1999

Austrian Anti-Nuclear Policy in the European Context

Report to the Council of Ministers, Action Plan

[Posted 25/11/1999]


GZ 480.1 00/0-lV/A/8/99


Report to the Council of Ministers

Action Plan Austrian

Anti-Nuclear Policy in the European Context

For the Federal Government, the safety of the population is of the highest priority. In this context especially the safety of nuclear power plants in the vicinity of the borders is of vital interest to Austria. Hence Austria has made nuclear safety a priority issue in the framework of the enlargement of the European Union.

Already in the European Union's opening statements at the opening of the accession negotiations on 31 March 1998, it was pointed out to the applicant countries that their individual progress in preparing for accession will contribute to the advancement of the negotiations. This includes advances with regard to "the objective of a high level of nuclear safety".

The legally binding "accession partnerships" established with all applicant countries oblige Bulgaria, Lithuania and the Slovak Republic to implement comprehensive energy strategies in the medium term - including the closure of first-generation reactors in Kozloduy, Ignalina and Bohunice. The "accession partnership" with Slovenia requires Slovene nuclear policy to be adjusted in line with the results of the seismic risk assessment of the site of the NPP Krsko.

With respect to the enlargement of the European Union, clear signals have been given under the Austrian Presidency by adopting the "Council Conclusions on Accession Strategies for the Environment" and the "Council Conclusions on Nuclear Safety in the context of enlargement of the European Union" as well as by the confirmation of these conclusions by the European Council of Vienna.

Inter alia, these conclusions stress that nuclear power plants which cannot be upgraded - which is the case at any rate for the first-generation reactors in Ignalina, Bohunice and Kozloduy - must be closed down as early as possible. Further, the applicant countries were asked to improve nuclear safety "so that it reaches a level corresponding to the technological, regulatory and operational state-of-the-art in the Union".

The European Council of Cologne again emphasized "the importance of high standards of nuclear safety in Central and Eastern Europe". It stressed "the importance of this issue in the context of the Union's enlargement" and called on the Commission "to examine this issue thoroughly in its next regular reports on the applicant countries, due in autumn 1999".

On 21 April 1999 the Government of the Slovak Republic decided to rescind a government decision of 1994 by which the operation of NPP Bohunice V-1 (a mark WWER 440/230 first-generation reactor) was limited to the year 2000 at the latest, to complete current safety upgrades by the year 2000, then have plant safety evaluated by the IAEA, and possibly to continue the operation of these reactors. This decision neither refers to the aforementioned Council Conclusions nor does it take account of the "accession partnership" with the European Union, under which the Slovak Republic must implement a "comprehensive long-term energy strategy based on efficiency and diversification", including the "implementation of a realistic program for the closure of the power Bohunice plant" in the medium term.

Neither have Bulgaria and Lithuania so far presented any plans for the early closure of first-generation reactors.

In addition to this urgent problem of older reactors, also those of more recent design in operation or under construction give rise to concern.

The Government of the Czech Republic, by a decision of 12 May 1999, has approved the completion of the Temelin nuclear power plant. This decision is mistaken in Austria's view because the arguments for an immediate stop to the construction by far outweigh the arguments favoring completion. Given this situation, the Austrian Federal Government will continue its activities with great determination.

Against this background, the following

Action Plan

has been elaborated, which embraces the European level as well as the bilateral level and consists of a total of 7 points.

1. Nuclear safety

The Federal Government will point out in all its interventions and contacts, whether at the bilateral or the European level, that it is important for Austria that it be made clear to the applicant countries in good time and leaving no room for doubt what the European Union expects from them, because Austria wants to avoid a situation where open questions with respect to nuclear safety could strongly impede the accession process. Austria has to draw attention to the fact that the implementation of the relevant Council Conclusions is seen as a precondition for accession.

This implies

a) that the applicant countries as soon as possible close nuclear power plants which cannot be upgraded - as has been mentioned, this relates in any case to the first-generation reactors in Ignalina, Bohunice and Kozloduy. Appropriate closure plans and their legally binding character will be called for vigorously by Austria in the preparations for the European Council of Helsinki and at Helsinki itself. Hence Austria will without delay draw the attention of its European partners and of the applicant countries to the fact that the presentation of comprehensive and convincing closure plans is an indispensable part of the accession process, and that it is therefore expected that these plans will be submitted well before the Helsinki Summit. The submission of closure plans is a basis for Austrian decisions in Helsinki relevant to accession. Should comprehensive and convincing closure plans not be in hand in good time, Austria will immediately call for a debate among its European partners on the Union's response in the framework of the accession process for these countries. In this debate Austria will orientate itself by the dates mentioned in Agenda 2000. In this context it has to be recalled that the "accession partnerships" require the states concerned to implement comprehensive energy strategies - including the closure of the plants mentioned - in the medium-term (according to Agenda 2000: Bohunice V-1 in 2000; Kozloduy 1 and 2 in 2001; Kozloduy 3 and 4 in 2001/2002; in Ignalina 1 the technical preparations for rechannelling must not be made; Ignalina 2 in 2002 in accordance with the NSA-Agreement).

b) that Austria will advocate a continuous evaluation of the progress achieved by the applicant countries in the implementation of the aforementioned Council Conclusions and that Austria will call for independent and comprehensive analyses. In principle it is up to the applicant countries to prove that the conditions of the European Union have been met. Likewise it is the responsibility of the European Commission in its regular progress reports to assess the progress achieved by the applicant countries. Nevertheless, Austria reserves the right to perform pertinent analyses, if appropriate in co-operation with other member states. The readiness of the applicant countries to provide sufficient and substantial information should be an element in such evaluations.

c) that Austria will continue, within the framework of available resources, to offer its own financial assistance also for the elaboration and implementation of comprehensive and sustainable energy strategies in the applicant countries, and that Austria will support the provision of such assistance out of the community budget.

Judging by the documentation so far available to the Federal Government, the present Temelin project does not comply with the "state of the art" in the Union. As Germany has one of the most advanced nuclear laws, the Federal Minister for Women's Issues and Consumer Protection and the Federal Minister for the Environment, Youth and the Family will invite Germany to join in a simulated licensing procedure for NPP Temelin as a model case for the "state of the art" required by the Council of the European Union in order to register clearly and unambiguously any deficiencies that still exist. At the same time the Government of the Czech Republic will be requested to support this analysis by providing the necessary documentation and information. It should be recalled that after reunification Germany almost immediately stopped the construction of nuclear power plants of the same design in Stendal because upgrading them to the West German level would have cost up to 2.2 billion German marks already then. Should this review not be able to prove that Temelin complies with this "state of the art", Austria will immediately remind the Czech Government, bilaterally and in the framework of the European Union, "state of the art" is a prerequisite for membership of the European Union. The same goes by analogy for other reactors under construction in the applicant countries.

2. EURATOM initiative

In this context - not least in order to underline the seriousness of Austria's attitude and in order to signal to the applicant countries that Austria applies the same standards inside and outside the European Union - an initiative will have to be pursued vigorously to amend the EURATOM Treaty under the motto "Phase-in into Phase-out" and with these main priorities:

  • the Euratom Treaty as a "safety and security treaty",
  • strengthening the rights of the European Parliament, and
  • eliminating the special role of the nuclear sector.
  • The Austrian Federal Government will advocate the development of common safety standards at the European level. Where an upgrading to "state of the art" is not possible, binding and unmovable closure dates should be agreed, under which design lifetime must not be exceeded. This applies equally to present and future members of the European Union.

    The current more favorable energy policy constellation in Europe must not be allowed to go unused. With the Federal Chancellery acting as "chef de file", an interministerial working party will in the short term work out a discussion paper in a broad discussion process involving in particular the Federal Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Federal Ministry of Science and Transport and the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Youth and the Family. On the basis of this discussion paper, the Federal Government will ask the Governments of EU member states to support this initiative and will strive for a decision to this effect at the European Council in Helsinki.

    3. Regulations on competition and subsidies

    Since the applicant countries are already bound by community legislation on state subsidies under the Europe Agreements with the European Union, the European Commission in particular - but other member states as well - will have to be requested to pay special attention to this question.

    In the case of Temelin, already existing state guarantees for loans taken by CEZ AG will have to be examined to see whether they are in conformity with the EU. The Federal Government will be highlighting this issue consistently both in the framework of the appropriate bodies of the Europe Agreement as well as in the framework of the accession negotiations regarding the chapter "competition".

    4. Internal electricity market

    Given the obvious intention of third countries to export electricity from nuclear plants into the European Union, the Federal Minister of Economic Affairs, in particular, will apply strict standards in implementing the relevant provisions of the Electricity Sector Organisation Act (EIWOG, Federal Law Gazette 1, No. 143/1998). In addition, the Federal Minister of Economic Affairs, in particular, will analyse the relevant regulatory framework of other EU member states and advocate effective common anti-dumping regulations if necessary. In this context the Second Report from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on the state of liberalisation of the energy markets, COM (99) 198 fin., and the Second Report to the Council and the European Parliament on harmonisation requirements, COM (99) 164 fin., where a common trade policy visa-vis third countries is put on the agenda, should be recalled.

    5. Environmental impact assessment

    The Federal Minister for the Environment, Youth and the Family, in particular, will call on the applicant countries, as appropriate, to ratify the ESPOO-Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context as soon as possible, and he will in particular remind the Czech Republic of its promise to do so in the first half of 1999

    This notwithstanding, Austrian participation will be demanded in accordance with the provisions of the ESPOO-Convention in the expected EIA procedures for Temelin - in analogy to the EIA procedures for planned facilities for the interim storage of spent fuel in the Czech Republic.

    6. Energy partnerships

    Since the "energy partnerships" with economies in transition in Central and Eastern Europe are intended to serve common interests and to be of mutual benefit in the long term, they should be continued consistently. The early implementation of projects already identified or in preparation is of major importance, not least because this highlights Austria's readiness to support sustainable development of the energy sector in the economies in transition. The Federal Ministries involved will therefore consistently pursue their efforts in this regard, also by consulting external experts of proven merit and by involving the Regional Governments of Austria.

    7. Freedom of choice for consumers By amending the Electricity Sector Organisation Act, it should be ensured that the general terms and conditions of the power companies will include a legal right of the customers to determine the source-of electricity from which they get their supply, in order to prevent large imports of electricity from nuclear plants to enter Austria despite this country's active commitment to a consistent anti-nuclear policy.

    At the same time there will have to be guarantees that those customers who do not want to buy nuclear power do not have to pay themselves most of the higher cost that their choice may entail.

    One of the objectives of this Action Plan is to prevent the enlargement of the European Union from being jeopardised by open questions with respect to nuclear safety.

    In the interest of a transparent and predictable policy, the European Commission, the European Parliament, the EU member states and the applicant countries will be informed about this Action Plan.

    The Federal Minister for Women's Issues and Consumer Protection and the Federal Minister for the Environment, Youth and the Family

    r e q u e s t

    the Federal Government to approve this report.

    Vienna, 30 June 1999

    sgd. Prammer
    sgd. Bartenstein

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