GOTHENBURG: The next big Protest?

Friends of the Earth
May 29, 2001

Brussels, 26th March: Friends of the Earth today released a leaked document prepared by the Commission which is destined to eventually be presented to Finance Ministers to sanction a subsidy for the nuclear power industry. The paper asks for 2 billion Euro for loans to enable more nuclear power plants to be built in Member States, Accession countries and the former Soviet Union.

The leaked document has a section called “Justification for raising the lending ceiling” in which is tries to convince the financial ministers of EU Member States that “the Commission has a powerful financial tool that can be used to influence the nuclear safety beyond the Union borders to the east. The two recent decisions to grant loans for projects in Bulgaria and the Ukraine demonstrate that the instrument can be used as a support for Commission policy in the field. …With the loans being tied in to earlier closure of old units.”

In the most recent Euratom project, the completion of two reactors in Ukraine, the project was financed in the face of strong criticism by EU governments, energy experts and environmentalists in the Ukraine and the EU. Furthermore, none of the Commission´s conditions for giving the money can actually be enforced by the Western project partners. Specifically there is no guarantee that Western nuclear safety standards will to be reached, since this is the competence of the Ukrainian nuclear authority.

In the case of the only other Euratom loan awarded in a decade, the life extension and upgrade of Kozloduy 5 and 6, the loan was given to Bulgaria on the condition of early closure of the units 1-4 of Kozloduy. However the Bulgarian Government is already making it clear that units 3 and 4 will not be closed until 2010, after the date suggested by the Commission (2006).

The Commission also claims that “Given that the instrument can also be applied to help finance the decommissioning of power plants, we expect the financing offered by Euratom to provide a positive contribution to the nuclear safety culture.” However, such financing has not and will not occur as it is impossible to imagine that the decommissioning of a nuclear facility – which is not revenue generating – would pass any economic criteria put forward by the European Investment Bank.

“This talk about safety and decommissioning is a kind of PR to divert the attention that the EURATOM money is going to be used for the construction of new nuclear power plants. This is obvious when we look at the projects that are applying for EURATOM loans, like unit 2 of the Cernavoda nuclear power plant in Romania.” says Patricia Lorenz, FoEE.

At the beginning of March the Romanian Government confirmed the application for an Euratom loan for completion of unit 2 in Cernavoda and announced a plan to build 3 more units. The Cernavoda power plant is a Canadian designed CANDU reactors. Unit 1 has already been completed with financing from the Canadian and Italian Export Credit Agencies. The electricity produced is intended for export – to the EU.

The Euratom Loan facility was established in the 1970s, before Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, at a time when politicians believed nuclear power was safe and economic. Today there are no reactors under construction within the EU and the majority of countries are non-nuclear or have phase-out plans for their nuclear power plants.

“Euratom Loans were established decades ago as a subsidy for nuclear power when people believed nuclear power might play a role in the EU’s energy system, it is time to abandon this subsidy for a dying and dangerous industry”, said Patricia Lorenz, FOE Europe.

Final approval from the Council of Ministers requires unanimous support from Member States. It is clear that this level of support does not exist, the Commission must withdraw this proposal.

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