Summary: Nuclear safety to the EU's eastern flank drew the attention of the EU's Foreign Affairs Ministers on December 7. Recalling their various commitments to improving nuclear safety to the highest standards in the former Communist bloc, the Ministers adopted a set of Conclusions calling on the Commission to ensure high priority for nuclear safety in the accession process of the candidate countries in Central and Eastern Europe. The move comes soon after the Commission was reprimanded by the EU Court of Auditors for its performance in the realm of nuclear safety to the East under the PHARE and TACIS programmes.

The Council asks the Commission to ensure through its PHARE and SAVE programmes that safety standards are met, and to promote the development of "technically competent, adequately resourced and fully independent nuclear safety authorities capable of reaching effective decisions on the safety of the installations within their jurisdiction". In its Conclusions, the Council also urges the candidate countries to make more rational use of energy and encourage renewables. It says there is "substantial scope for increasing energy efficiency" and urges the CEECs to "implement a comprehensive energy strategy giving due consideration to efficiency and diversification with due regard to the potential of renewable sources of energy". The Council supports the Commission's intention to use pre-accession funding to help formulate an energy strategy, taking into account the decommissioning of old plants and the treatment of waste. For some plants with Soviet-technology reactors which cannot be upgraded to internationally-accepted levels of safety at a reasonable cost, the Council emphasises that energy strategies "must provide for the earliest practicable closure of those reactors, including an agreed timetable for closure". Worldwide safety. The General Affairs Council also adopted a Decision at its meeting on December 7 that approves the accession of the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) to the Nuclear Safety Convention, which entered into force in October 1996. The objective of this Convention is to achieve and maintain a high level of nuclear safety world-wide through national measures and international cooperation. MEPs question Commission over TACIS irregularities. The European Commission has meanwhile come under heavy criticism again over its action under the nuclear safety section of the TACIS programme, this time by Members of...

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