On 13 June 2013, the European Commission (EC) published a proposal for a revised nuclear safety Directive. The European nuclear industry has always made safety its top priority, so the industry is in favour of any European legislation that could contribute to further enhance nuclear safety in Europe. However, the proposal is too technically detailed for a Europe-wide safety framework and it risks undermining the authority of national safety regulators.
The revised Directive includes a series of new provisions: legally binding EU-wide peer reviews every six years, national periodic safety reviews every 10 years, the requirement for new nuclear reactors to be designed in a way which ensures that if a reactor core is damaged, this has no consequences outside the plant; and an emergency response centre for every nuclear power plant. National regulatory authorities and plant operators will also have to develop a strategy, which will define how public is informed in the event of an accident, but also in times of normal operation of the plant.
National nuclear safety regulators remain the competent authorities as far as nuclear safety is concerned. These EU-wide safety assessments, which will be carried out every six years, risk undermining the authority of national regulators. Indeed, it could create confusion over the allocation of competences between the Member States and the EU and lead to delays in the implementation of safety improvements by the nuclear operators.
Moreover some provisions of the Directive are too technically detailed and could overlap with existing international legislation such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)'s Convention on nuclear safety. This is likely to complicate the work of the national regulators and once again could impede the implementation in due time of safety improvements.
The current Directive adopted in 2009 was the starting point for the creation of a common EU framework on nuclear safety. When the Fukushima accident took place, the EU decided to revise Directive earlier than initially planned to incorporate the lessons learned from the accident. However the timing is quite inappropriate, since the results of the post-Fukushima review of other international bodies such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are not yet available. Moreover the EU Member States are due to submit to the EC their report assessing the implementation of the current Directive by 2014.