20 December 1996
REPORT1 on nuclear safety in the countries of central and eastern Europe
Rapporteur: Mr Claude BIRRAUX, France, European People's Party Group
Four years after adopting Recommendation 1209 (1993) on nuclear power plants in central and eastern Europe, the Assembly is again addressing the specific problem of nuclear safety in this part of Europe.
The international context and the national situations of the countries concerned have changed since 1993. There is broad agreement that the utmost must be done to achieve a uniform level of nuclear safety throughout the continent. Unfortunately, despite the increasing number of international initiatives on the political, legal and economic fronts, no very convincing results have yet emerged.
If we are to improve nuclear safety appreciably in the countries of central and eastern Europe, and therefore throughout Europe, we must intensify international co-operation in this field; the West must show clear political determination and implement a consistent strategy, backed by unambiguous, goal-specific financial commitments, while in central and eastern Europe itself, tangible measures are needed at national level.
I. Draft recommendation
1. The Parliamentary Assembly, conscious of the complexity of the problems raised by the presence of several potentially dangerous nuclear power plants in some countries of central and eastern Europe, has on several occasions expressed its concern about nuclear safety in these countries.
2. Recommendation 1209 (1993) on nuclear power plants in central and eastern Europe was a document ahead of its time. It put forward politically realistic and economically viable solutions, ranging from operating improvements and reactor modernisation to the immediate shutdown of the most dangerous reactors.
3. Unfortunately, the alarm bells which the Assembly rang have not had the desired effect. By way of illustration, it took almost three years for the official decision to close the Chernobyl plant to be taken in December 1995. It will be the year 2000 before that decision is put into effect.
4. In parallel, the Assembly has addressed the issue of nuclear safety in the countries of central and eastern Europe through Resolution 1087 (1996) on the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster and Resolution 1094 (1996) on the activities of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in 1995, which sought, inter alia, to strengthen the role played by the EBRD in this field, through its Nuclear Safety Account.
5. Even though the operation of one or more nuclear plants may be an integral part of the energy policy adopted by a state and is a matter for the sovereignty of the state in question, the particular features of the production of nuclear energy entitle and indeed oblige the international community to express its concerns over the practical arrangements for such production. The lack of nuclear safety resulting either from reactor design faults or from uncertainties relating to the human factor must be of concern not only to one or two states but to the whole continent. The consequences of a nuclear accident are not limited to one country alone. This was illustrated only too clearly by the Chernobyl disaster over a decade ago.
6. The Council of Europe, as a pan-European institution, is suitably placed to be able to take effective action to improve nuclear safety throughout Europe. The Assembly is currently addressing the issue of nuclear safety only in the countries of central and eastern Europe, simply because several reactors in these countries, especially the first generation RBMK-type reactors, have many design faults and because the safety culture in each of these countries can and must be radically improved.
7. A series of high-level initiatives has been taken in recent times in order to set up an international nuclear safety control mechanism. The Convention on Nuclear Safety, negotiated under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), codifies the basic safety principles relating to the regulation, management and operation of nuclear installations and the need to establish and maintain a legislative and regulatory framework. The "Memorandum of Understanding" signed in 1995 by the G7, the European Commission and Ukraine provides for the closure of the Chernobyl plant by the year 2000. The Summit on Nuclear Safety and Security held in Moscow in April 1996 emphasised the safety-first principle, whereby safety must prevail over all other considerations in the field of nuclear energy.
8. A number of financial initiatives have been taken to help improve nuclear safety in the countries of central and eastern Europe. The European Commission has earmarked funds under its PHARE and TACIS programmes. At the request of the G7, the EBRD set up the Nuclear Safety Account in 1993 to subsidise specific projects to improve the operational and technical safety of nuclear plants. The account is financed by voluntary contributions from donor countries but it does not have sufficient funds.
9. In the light of the above, the Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe invite the governments of all member states to pursue and step up international co-operation to improve nuclear safety in the countries of central and eastern Europe by taking inter alia, the following measures:
i. promote the inculcation of a safety culture in all countries which have chosen nuclear energy as an integral part of their national energy system. To this end, twinnings between power plants in western Europe and those in central and eastern Europe should be encouraged, having due regard to the positive results of similar initiatives already undertaken. Staff in central and east European plants should have the opportunity to improve their skills on the simulators available in western training centres;
ii. make every effort to ensure that the Convention on Nuclear Safety is ratified and implemented by all countries with nuclear power plants;
iii. establish greater international transparency in the whole spectrum of activities relating to nuclear energy. Accordingly, inspections of various nuclear sites by the authorities of countries other than the host country should be encouraged. The international community must be made aware of and be able to analyse any incidents or accidents which might occur, in order to ensure that they can be prevented in a general way in the future;
iv. help to strengthen safety authorities and their technical safety organisations (TSOs) in the countries of central and eastern Europe, by continuing and increasing the technical assistance and research programmes run by western TSOs in the field of safety. Among the aims of these ongoing programmes for the transfer of specific skills and methods are improved safety assessment capabilities and authorisation and inspection procedures;
v. substantially increase voluntary contributions to the EBRD's Nuclear Safety Account in order for a greater number of specific projects to be subsidised through the Bank;
vi. further to the numerous safety assessment studies already carried out, decide in a precise and co-ordinated way which reactors in the countries of central and eastern Europe should be shut down and what alternative sources of energy are to be employed so that the countries concerned are not faced with energy shortages;
vii. support the drawing up, by the competent national and international organisations, of reaction and assistance plans in the event of accidents in nuclear power plants. In this context, the project devised by the Division of Environmental Information and Assessment (DEIA) of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in conjunction with the IAEA should be encouraged. Furthermore, particular attention should be paid to nuclear accidents in the framework of the Council of Europe's "EUR-OPA Major Hazards" Open Partial Agreement on the prevention of, protection against, and organisation of relief in major disasters;
viii. ensure that the necessary funds are available to continue and step up public nuclear safety research programmes;
ix. adopt solutions which are reliable, secure, technologically feasible, socially acceptable and transparent, in order to manage nuclear waste in the short, long and very long term;
x. encourage the setting up of associations of safety authorities, safety research centres and nuclear waste management companies. As is the case with WANO (World Association of Nuclear Operators) for the operators, these associations will be able to share their experience in a specific framework, possibly receiving financial support from the European Union and the EBRD.
10. The Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers invite the governments of the countries of central and eastern Europe which have nuclear power plants to take the following measures:
i. improve the national legal framework in the field of nuclear safety, having due regard to international standards as defined in the Convention on Nuclear Safety and in the Paris and Vienna Conventions on third party/civil liability in the event of nuclear accidents;
ii. grant safety authorities genuine independence and, at the same time, strong and loyal support such that they can derive real benefit from that independence;
iii. immediately take inexpensive but effective steps to improve the safety culture, such as:
a. amending any nuclear plant operating rules which do not conform to the safety-first principle whereby safety prevails over all other considerations. Any sign of reactor malfunction must prompt an appropriate operator response. Operators must place safety above all else, ahead of the economic or occupational implications of the possible halting of the reactor;
b. organising, at national level, further training courses for power plant staff;
iv. reaffirm their commitment to honour their political undertakings and the schedules laid down by the international political or economic authorities for the implementation of those undertakings;
v. ensure that any new reactor under construction is, from the moment it becomes operational, equipped with the necessary safety systems to meet the IAEA standards in force.
11. The Assembly asks the Committee of Ministers to forward this recommendation to the governments of the states concerned which are not members of the Council of Europe and to the relevant international organisations and to appeal to them to step up their efforts to find quick and viable solutions which will guarantee a uniform level of nuclear safety throughout Europe.
12. The Assembly invites the Committee of Ministers to inform all the international bodies concerned, in particular the G7, of the content of this recommendation, so that practical action is taken, and to make periodical assessments of the various actions taken with a view to improve nuclear safety.
II. Explanatory memorandum
by Mr Claude BIRRAUX
I. Introduction 7
II. The current international context 7
A. International agreements 7
a. The Convention on Nuclear Safety 7
b. The Memorandum of Understanding on Chernobyl 8
c. The Moscow summit on nuclear safety and security 9
B. Financial initiatives 9
a. The Nuclear Safety Account 9
b. The PHARE and TACIS programmes 10
c. The "EURATOM" loans 11
III. The reactors of the countries of central and eastern Europe 11
IV. The situation in the countries concerned 13
A. Armenia 13
B. Bulgaria 13
C. Hungary 14
D. Lithuania 14
E. Czech Republic 14
F. Romania 14
G. Russia 15
H. Slovakia 15
I. Slovenia and Croatia 16
J. Ukraine 16
V. Safety-related activities 16
A. The safety message 17
B. Establishing nuclear safety 17
C. Additional requirements 18
D. Disaster strategies 19
VI. Conclusions 19
Appendix 1 22
Appendix 2 24
Appendix 3 26
The Assembly has considered the subject of nuclear installations in central and eastern Europe on a number of occasions. Recommendation 1209 (1993) on nuclear power plants in central and eastern Europe, which followed the Report presented by Mr Bassinet on behalf of the Committee on Science and Technology, was already very advanced for its time. It put forward politically realistic and economically viable solutions which took account of the various technical options, from operating improvements and reactor modernisation to the immediate shutdown of the most dangerous plants. Recommendation 1209 proposed two courses of action. The first was improved international co-ordination, including the setting up of a high-level decision-making mechanism. The second was an unequivocal financial commitment which took account of all the implications on at least a Europe-wide scale. Unfortunately, the alarm bells which the Assembly rang all of four years ago have not had the desired effect and nuclear safety remains a subject about which there is much discussion but where practical measures take a long time to emerge and are often difficult to make sense of.
The time has now come for the Assembly to return to the subject of nuclear power plants in central and eastern Europe, this time from an overall perspective, and assess the developments since 1993 from both the scientific and political standpoints.
A specification has to be made: the report concerns only nuclear safety, that means the measures aimed to avoid accidents at the nuclear plants. Nuclear security, which includes actions aimed to avoid spiteful acts and which is a concept tightly linked to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, does not constitute the object of this approach.
II. The current international context
A. International agreements
a. The Convention on Nuclear Safety
The Convention on Nuclear Safety was negotiated under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and is the first document ever to have raised directly the issue of the safety of nuclear power plants throughout the world. It requires the countries concerned to prepare reports on the safety of their nuclear installations, and for these reports to be examined at regular intervals in joint meetings. States subscribing to the Convention are responsible for ensuring the safety of civil nuclear plant located in their territory, and of the storage, handling and treatment of radioactive materials situated on the same site and directly linked to the plant's functioning.
While the Convention stresses that the use of nuclear power is a national responsibility, it provides an international framework based on its members' interdependence. This interdependence creates a need for an upward levelling of the global safety culture, which in the countries of central and eastern Europe means a considerable rise.
The Convention confirms certain principles understood in the west but not necessarily in the east. It supports the idea that safety authorities must have real power, that other countries' authorities should be permitted to examine nuclear sites and that accidents in nuclear plants must not be concealed, but should be made public, so that the causes and effects can be assessed and rules governing civil liability - very specific ones in the case of the nuclear sector - drawn up.
The Convention on Nuclear Safety was opened for signature in September 1994 and has been signed by 63 states; further signatures and ratifications are awaited. The IAEA has already received the required number of instruments of ratification and the Convention enters into force on 24 October 1996 (Appendix I shows the list of signatures, ratifications, acceptances, approvals or accessions to the Convention).
b. The Memorandum of Understanding on Chernobyl
In December 1995, the G7, the European Commission and Ukraine signed a "Memorandum of Understanding" (MOU) on the most media-exposed power plant in the world - Chernobyl. Under the terms of the memorandum, the parties undertake to work towards the plant's closure by the year 2000. At the same time, there will be a general reform of Ukraine's energy sector.
In addition to the closure of reactors 1 to 3, the memorandum provides for:
- short-term improvements to the safety of the units that are still in operation, the RBMK-type reactors used at Chernobyl and in other parts of the former Soviet Union;
- the construction of a new sarcophagus at Chernobyl. The concrete covering which currently envelopes the damaged reactor unit 4 is a provisional one and must be replaced;
- the completion of two reactors at the Rovno and Khmelnitsky plants, which use a non-RBMK-type technology but a western type one - to replace reactor units 1 to 3 at Chernobyl;
- the preparation of a social impact plan. The European Union and the United States have agreed to finance an action plan on the social impact of the closure of the Chernobyl plant, which still employs some 4 000 persons. The plan provides for the development of Slavutich, a new town of 30 000 inhabitants situated immediately outside the 30 km exclusion zone established around Chernobyl, as a regional centre for economic activity. It will also help to make up for any deficiencies in the social services that the nuclear plant provides for its staff. The plan's success depends on the co-operation of Ukrainian central government, the management of the Chernobyl plant, the Slavutich municipal authorities and the local population.
However, it appears that Ukraine and the west have entered into a confrontation over the plant's closure. In principle, this has never been open to doubt (since it would be a flagrant breach of the memorandum), but problems have arisen over the date. The Ukrainian authorities use every opportunity to invoke the country's disastrous economic and financial situation. According to some estimates, 10 to 15% of the Ukrainian annual budget is devoted to dealing with the consequences of an accident which took place more than ten years ago. Closure by the year 2000 appears to depend very much on the sums that the west is willing to make available. Ukraine is quoting figures of up to 8 000 million dollars (about 6 400 million ECUs), whereas the G7 has increased its offer to 3 100 million dollars (about 2 500 million ECUs).
c. The Moscow summit on nuclear safety and security
The very fact that the summit on nuclear safety and security, held in Moscow in April 1996, took place at all made it an exceptionally remarkable event. The result was a series of documents jointly approved by the member countries of the G7, the European Union and Russia. What makes these documents even more important is the fact that even if the agreement had only been signed by the G7 countries this would have still been an achievement in itself.
The summit documents include both issues of principle and specific decisions. The issues of principle - which as political undertakings can be invoked at any time where they fail to be applied - include the statements that nuclear safety has to prevail over all other considerations, whether they be economic or other, and that every country should sign the Convention on Nuclear Safety.
Three practical decisions were taken at the summit: first, Russia undertook to sign the Vienna Convention on Third Party Liability in the case of Nuclear Accidents2, which it did in May 1996; second, the Ukrainian President reiterated his country's commitment to implementing the "Memorandum of Understanding"; third, the G7 countries also repeated their undertakings in the framework of the memorandum.
Two formal undertakings were entered into at the summit. The first was to organise a further, high-level, meeting between the G7 members and Ukraine before the end of 1996, following the publication of the results of the European Union-funded study of the programme for a renewed sarcophagus for reactor 4 at Chernobyl. The second was to organise a meeting of experts in Paris towards the end of 1996, to assess the technical, economic and industrial options for managing the plutonium released by the dismantling of nuclear weapons.
B. Financial initiatives
a. The Nuclear Safety Account
The Assembly has already taken note, in June 1996, of your rapporteur's contribution to its debate on the activities of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in the nuclear safety field. In its Resolution 1094 (1996) on the activities of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in 1995, the Assembly included a series of suggestions put forward in my contribution.
The Nuclear Safety Account, which was developed by the EBRD at the request of the G7 in 1993, grant aids projects to increase the safety of nuclear installations in the countries of central and eastern Europe. It is financed by voluntary contributions from donor countries.
As I have already said in the contribution referred to above (Doc 7576), the amounts available to the Account are not even sufficient to meet the most urgent requirements for increasing nuclear safety. Despite the inadequate contributions, financial reserves generally remained unused, at least until 1995. As well as improving reactors which could be repaired, the initially declared goals included the closure of the most dangerous reactors, which now seems to have been - at least in part - forgotten. The IAEA has itself observed that there is no sign that the old nuclear plants are about to be shut down and that a series of countries are taking improvement measures to justify keeping them in operation.
Through its Nuclear Safety Account, the EBRD has become the third - financial - element of a group which includes the G7 and G24 - the political element - and specialist organisations such as the IAEA or the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) of the OECD. The need for complementarity of the activities of those involved in the nuclear safety problem, which has world-wide implications, is great enough as it is, without being made still worse. Unfortunately, the reality does not reflect this need: the countries contributing to the Account, and they alone, have the power to determine how the various projects are funded. The criteria imposed by each contributor threaten to give rise to a bureaucratic "monster", leaving no flexibility of application to take account of the specific features of each situation. This lack of flexibility is the main reason why Slovakia has chosen to turn first to Russia, and then to a Russian-German-French-Czech consortium, rather than the EBRD, for co-operation in connection with the Mochovce plant.
b. The PHARE and TACIS programmes
Nuclear energy and safety feature in the trade and co-operation agreements that the European Union has signed with the countries of central and eastern Europe, as well as in the co-operation agreements and partnership it has concluded with the former Soviet states. The PHARE and TACIS programmes include two parts particularly concerned with the nuclear industry. Their objectives are to:
- improve the safety of operational nuclear installations and the treatment of nuclear fuels and waste;
- strengthen the nuclear safety authorities;
- improve regional co-operation in the nuclear safety field between countries using Soviet designed reactors.
The special programmes include:
- assistance to operators and design institutes in assessing the most important technical problems and finding appropriate short and medium-term solutions (assistance includes supplying equipment, improving services, quality assurance and inspection procedures);
- the transfer of western technologies coupled with continued support for Russian and Ukrainian nuclear safety capacity by sub-contracting tasks to local institutes.
The European Commission has allocated the following amounts to the nuclear and environmental safety sector via the PHARE and TACIS programmes:
PHARE 1990: ECU 102,5 million
1991: ECU 100,0 million
1992: ECU 87,2 million
1993: ECU 34,1 million
1994: ECU 77,5 million
Total: ECU 401,3 million
TACIS 1991: ECU 53,0 million
1992: ECU 80,0 million
1993: ECU 100,0 million
1994: ECU 88,0 million
Total: ECU 321,0 million
PHARE has financed a "regional programme" made up of the following sections:
- assistance to safety authorities;
- general studies of WWER reactors (in conjunction with TACIS);
- studies of fuel storage centres and of the necessary legislation.
c. The "EURATOM" loans
The EURATOM loans are a further aspect of co-operation between the European Union and the countries of central and eastern Europe and are intended to improve the safety and reliability of their nuclear sectors. As indicated by their title, the EURATOM loans differ from the grants made under the PHARE and TACIS programmes in that they are repayable.
III. The Reactors of the Countries of central and eastern Europe
All the central and eastern European countries with nuclear capacity use Soviet designed reactors, with the exception of Romania, which opted for Canadian designed CANDU reactors, and of Slovenia and Croatia, which jointly own an American designed reactor.
There are in the central and eastern European countries 58 Soviet designed reactors in operation and 12 under construction. They belong to two categories:
a. RBMK or LWGR (light-water-cooled graphite-moderated reactors);
b. VVER or WWER (pressurised light-water-cooled and moderated reactors).
Although there is no clearly laid down international standard by which reactors can be classified as safe or unsafe, there are a number of criteria which enable experts to assess reactors' safety levels. These include:
- statistics on the number of incidents recorded at the reactor over a certain period;
- the type of reactor;
- its age and current state;
- its maintenance;
- radioactive discharge;
- the quality of staff training;
- openmindness to problems having an immediate or potential impact on nuclear safety.
It is generally accepted that certain types of Soviet designed reactor do not satisfy a sufficient number of the above criteria. Moreover, the "chronic problems" are often supplemented by other difficulties such as a lack of qualified staff or spare parts.
Types of reactor
The RBMK reactor was made famous by the Chernobyl accident. Its characteristics, insufficiently known by western experts until some time ago, are now well understood because of the Swedish work at Ignalina plant and through the activities of the International RBMK consortium.
The RBMKs are thought to present significant design faults associated with a instability inherent in the design of the core and a total absence of systems to protect against leakages (at least in the case of the oldest reactors). The Russian Academy of Sciences has itself recommended the closure of the oldest RBMKs, but this has not been echoed by the safety authority concerned.
There are two generations of RBMK, the first, designed in the 1960s and operational since the 1970s, and the second, which incorporates considerable improvements from the safety standpoint. Most of these improvements are attributable to the Chernobyl accident.
VVER-type reactors are fairly well known by western experts since their operational principles are very similar to those of western reactors. They have also been intensively studied since several years.
There are three generations of VVER.
1. The VVER 440/230, which, according to the IAEA, includes a large number of design faults:
- the lack of an emergency cooling system for the core;
- the absence of any protection against leakages;
- the strength of the reactor vessels, which have probably been embrittled by neutron bombardment, is unknown and many pipes are corroded;
- there is little redundancy or diversity in the system and the fire safety and protection system is inadequate.
2. The VVER 440/213 is very similar to the previous generation, but a number of improvements have been made to the safety system, such as protection against leakages and an emergency cooling system for the core. However, there is still some uncertainty about the real effectiveness of these improvements and other faults, such as the lack of redundancy and diversity and of fire protection, remain.
3. The VVER 1000 was designed in the early 1970s and according to statistics often shuts down more than ten times a year. The main defects concern the cooling system. The safety systems are based on inadequate technical applications, the various components sometimes reflect compromises with the dimensions requested, the instrumentation is of poor quality and it has been difficult to install control rods. Improvements have been made to a number of VVER 1000 reactors, in particular by providing them with western control-command systems (Siemens).
IV. The situation in the countries concerned
The Medzamor generator has two VVER 440/270 reactors (very similar to the VVER 440/230). They were shut down in 1989, following the Spitak earthquake, but in 1993 the Armenian government decided to reactivate the number 2 unit, in response to serious energy shortages.
The Armenian reactors are generally recognised as being among the most dilapidated of their generation and their siting in an earthquake zone can only serve to increase the concerns of neighbouring countries. A technical improvement programme has been launched with Russian technical and financial assistance. The first stage was completed when the reactor came back into service in November 1995. A second package of improvement measures is scheduled for the next two to three years and will be followed by a third stage, involving major safety improvements.
The Kozloduy plant has four VVER 440/230 and two VVER 1000 reactors. It produces about 40% of the country's electricity.
A number of short-term improvements were carried out on the four VVER 440/230 reactors in 1992-93, with international assistance, particularly from the European Commission, after a series of incidents at the plant in 1991 which caused serious concern to the organisations concerned and, above all, the neighbouring countries - the Bulgarian plant is situated just a stone's throw from the Romanian frontier. A further package of improvements, more ambitious from both the technical and financial standpoints, is currently under way, with the assistance of the EBRD and other donors, and should be completed in 1997. In order to provide support in the future for these four reactors, the Kozloduy plant, in conjunction with the Bulgarian company Energoprojekt, has drawn up a safety improvement programme which has been presented to the Bulgarian regulatory authority.
The latter is also examining the safety improvement programme for the two VVER 1000 units. This has been drawn up by the plant in co-operation with national companies and the French electricity board (EDF).
The competent authority for nuclear problems in Bulgaria is the Council of Ministers. The Committee on the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes is responsible to the Council and implements government policy on nuclear energy. The Committee's Inspectorate on the safe use of nuclear energy monitors all the bodies, organisations and officials engaged in nuclear activities to ensure that safety requirements are observed.
The Paks nuclear plant is equipped with four VVER 440/213 reactors. It accounts for about 50% of the country's electricity production.
In conjunction with national companies and with western assistance, the plant has undertaken a complete reassessment of the four units (the AGNES programme). According to the IAEA, the results have confirmed the satisfactory design of the plant.
Responsibility for nuclear activities in Hungary is shared between ministries and the Hungarian Atomic Energy Commission. The Ministry of the Interior is in charge of the physical protection of radioactive materials and preparations for emergencies while the Ministry of Welfare and Public Affairs is responsible for radiation protection. The Atomic Energy Commission advises the government on nuclear matters and is also the nuclear safety regulatory body.
Between 75 and 90% of Lithuania's electricity needs are supplied by the Ignalina nuclear plant, which is equipped with two second generation RBMK reactors, which are still considered to offer a far from satisfactory level of safety.
The two reactors are the subject of a large-scale safety improvement programme. This programme forms part of a wider bilateral assistance programme with Sweden and receives some financial support from the EBRD.
E. Czech Republic
The Dukovany nuclear power plant supplies 23% of the country's electricity. It is equipped with four VVER 440/213 reactors. A safety improvement programme is currently being developed and introduced, following safety assessment studies.
Two VVER 1000 reactors are currently being built at Temelin, with a large shareholding by the American company Westinghouse. The contract requires Westinghouse to ensure that the plant conforms to recognised international standards.
In the Czech Republic, the responsibilities of the former Czechoslovakian Atomic Energy Commission were transferred to the State Office for Nuclear Safety, as the central administrator for nuclear safety, and the Ministry of Industry and Trade, regarding the development and use of nuclear energy. The Ministry of Health is responsible for radiological protection.
In April 1996, the first of the five reactors at the Cernavoda nuclear power plant became operational.
Romania opted since a long time for a non-Soviet nuclear technology. The Cernavoda reactors are of the CANDU type (Canadian pressurised heavy water reactors) and they were built by Atomic Energy of Canada (AECL) and the Italian group Ansaldo.
The Institute of Atomic Physics, which has replaced the former State Nuclear Energy Commission, is responsible for scientific research, the development and applications of nuclear technology and the promotion of nuclear-related applications in the Romanian economy. The Institute is responsible to the Ministry of Research and Technology. A significant part of the research on nuclear plants is carried out at the Nuclear Research Institute at Pitesti and at the Institute for Power Studies and Design - the nuclear department of the National Administration for Electricity.
A National Commission for the Control of Nuclear Activities is responsible for authorising and supervising nuclear activities. The Commission's chairman has the equivalent status of an under-secretary of state, and is responsible to the Ministry of Waters, Forests and Environmental Protection.
Eleven of the 15 RBMKs in operation are in Russia: 4 at St Petersburg, 4 at Kursk and 3 at Smolensk. The Kola plant is equipped with an operational VVER 440/230 reactor and that at Novovoronezh with 3 operational VVER 440/230s. The other Russian reactors are two VVER 440/213s and six VVER 1000s. Nuclear energy accounts for a relatively small proportion of Russia's electricity production: 12%, of which less than half - 5% - is supplied by the RBMKs and the VVER 440/230s.
Rebuilding programmes are under way at the St Petersburg, Kursk and Smolensk RBMK plants. The Kola and Novovoronezh VVERs are currently operating under a special regime introduced in 1990 which provides for the gradual introduction of a series of safety improvements. These improvements are receiving significant international support, particularly through the EBRD.
The VVER 1000 reactors are undergoing a general modernisation programme drawn up by the MOHT consortium, composed of the principal Russian nuclear engineering institutes, Rosenergoatom and the French electricity organisation, EDF.
Nuclear responsibility in Russia is shared between the Ministry for Atomic Energy (MINATOM), and the State Committee for Nuclear Radiation and Safety(Gosatomnadzor). MINATOM is responsible for the national nuclear programme and all research and development in this field. Gosatomnadzor is the regulatory body for nuclear safety and radiation.
Slovakia has a nuclear power plant at Bohunice, which is equipped with two VVER 440/230 and two VVER 440/213 reactors. They meet about 50% of the country's electricity requirements. Between 1991 and 1993, a series of short-term safety improvements - the "81 measures" - were carried out on the VVER 440/230 reactors, as a result of which the national safety authority authorised them to remain in service until 1995. A programme to enable the two VVER 440/230s to continue to operate in the future has been drawn up in collaboration with the German company Siemens. Another series of safety improvements is also currently being applied to the two VVER 440/213s.
Four improved VVER 440/213 reactors are currently under construction at Mochovce. The financing of the improvement project aimed at bringing them into operation is now the subject of a contract with a Russian-German-French-Czech consortium, the EBRD having been rejected after it attempted to impose insufficiently flexible criteria on Slovakia.
The Nuclear Regulatory Authority of Slovakia is the legal successor to the former Atomic Energy Commission, which functioned until the break-up of Czechoslovakia. The authority operates as an independent regulatory body which is directly responsible to the government and its chairmen is appointed by the President of the Republic. Its responsibilities include the nuclear safety of nuclear facilities, radioactive waste management, assessing the various nuclear programmes from a safety standpoint and international agreements on nuclear safety.
I. Slovenia and Croatia
The Krsko nuclear plant, equipped with a Westinghouse pressurised water reactor, is situated in Slovenia but belongs to the public electricity undertakings of both countries.
About a third of Ukraine's electricity production comes from its nuclear power plants. Two RBMK reactors are in service at Chernobyl (one first and one second generation). The other two Chernobyl reactors, also RBMKs, were respectively destroyed in the April 1986 accident and shut down in 1991, following a fire. The Rovno nuclear plant has two VVER 440/213 reactors, on which safety checks were carried out in 1993 and 1994 by the Franco-German company Riskaudit, as part of the European Union's assistance to the Ukrainian safety authority. In line with the conclusions of this assessment, the Rovno plant is drawing up a safety improvement programme in conjunction with EDF, which will receive financial support from the European Union. Ukraine's ten VVER 1000 reactors are located in the Rovno (1), Khmelnitski (1), South Ukraine (3) and Zaporozhe (5) nuclear plants. Special programmes for each power plant have been drawn up by the Ukrainian nuclear engineering institute, involving two new reactors at Rovno and Khmelnitski respectively, whose construction has been decided on by the government and forms part of the Memorandum of Understanding with the G7 and the EU.
The regulatory body for nuclear safety in Ukraine is the State Committee on Nuclear Radiation and Safety, established in 1992. Two bodies report to it: the Main State Inspectorate for the Supervision of Nuclear Safety and Radiation and the State Centre for Quality Control of Supplies for Nuclear Activities. The Ministry of Health is responsible for setting nuclear safety rules and standards.
V. Safety-related activities
The Moscow summit seems to reflect a general recognition that it is impossible to force independent countries to accept external solutions just as they stand. Such radical approaches would lack stability and durability. The frequently heard statement that nuclear safety can only be achieved by shutting down all the power plants has been shown to be counter-productive and even dangerous. The countries of central and eastern Europe which already possess nuclear power plants prefer to keep them and see nuclear energy as one of the components of their future energy systems. Statements like the one just mentioned could create the belief that the west makes a difficult partner for collaboration, because its only aim is the closure of existing plants, and that the central and east European countries should sort out their own affairs.
It is essential for public opinion in these countries to be made aware of the present situation regarding civil nuclear installations; we have now gone beyond simple technical assistance from the west and are now at the co-operation stage. Regarding nuclear safety, it falls under the responsability of the countries possessing nuclear plants.
A. The safety message
Nuclear safety is not a rich countries' luxury but a necessity for all. Short-term contingencies, economic difficulties or social and cultural traditions may sometimes disguise this objective but the safety requirement nevertheless remains valid. Two conditions must be met if the safety message is to be got across:
- the west must clarify what it is saying: what is to be made of countries that at one moment are arguing that certain types of reactor must be shut down immediately and then take part in programmes to improve their safety? Or of countries and bodies that one day are denouncing the shortcomings of Soviet reactors and the next are praising their qualities of robustness and reliability? The language is often confused and does little to promote an understanding of the west's objectives;
- increase the political community's and society's awareness of the need for safety: the secondary role that safety has often been accorded in the east is perhaps due in large part to the absence of public opinion, which is a very powerful source of pressure on the industrial and administrative bodies responsible for safety. However, the frequent changes of direction in recent years regarding the possible closure of Chernobyl show that for certain political leaders safety remains a political and financial bargaining chip; their aim it to "sell" nuclear insecurity to the west, while at the same time denouncing - occasionally with justice - a western desire to interfere that smacks of imperialism.
B. Establishing nuclear safety
Genuine safety is not something that is imposed externally; it has to be developed gradually within the full range of a country's institutions. There are various aspects to this:
- improving the legal framework: establishing the rule of law is one of the great challenges for the political transition in central and eastern Europe. In many countries, this has been achieved. In the field of nuclear safety, what is now required is a clarification of the fundamental principles governing nuclear law. National legislation in this field generally incorporates the principles laid down in international texts, such as the very recent Convention on Nuclear Safety or the Convention on Nuclear Liability;
- establishing or strengthening proper safety authorities: this is a key stage in improving the safety of east European power plants; safety authorities are the bodies with which operators must negotiate to secure authorisation to construct and operate their plants. Safety authorities' technical expertise and independence provide guarantees that safety will be checked and regulated by the public authorities; the latter ought therefore to offer their safety authorities firm and reliable support, though this does not always appear to be the case with some of the countries of the former Soviet Union, where too often priority is still given to the interests of nuclear operators;
- establishing a genuine "safety culture": a safety culture is a state of mind in which everyone from manual worker to plant director is constantly aware of his or her actions, always considers the safety implications of what is being done and systematically questions day-to-day routines, in other words a situation in which everyone accepts a fundamental personal responsibility for safety. The twinning arrangements of recent years between plants in western and in central and eastern Europe have provided an opportunity to exchange experience and have demonstrated how safety can become inherent in all aspects of the task. The establishment of the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) in 1986 helped to launch the process. Some of the arguments regarding safety are also valid for western operators, where conditions are by no means always perfect. I have considered the whole issue of the safety and security of nuclear installations in two reports to the French National Assembly and Senate, on behalf of the parliamentary office for assessing scientific and technological choices.
C. Additional requirements
Major renovation work is essential to ensure an acceptable level of safety in certain plants. This will involve joint, multinational financing. It has to be stated that so far a great deal of money has been spent on safety assessment studies, rather than on practical work. Industrialist in both east and west have complained about this situation on several occasions. Improving nuclear safety also calls for the closure of the most run-down plants or those which fall particularly short of recognised international standards.
However, we should not delude ourselves: the pre-conditions for renovation or closure are difficult to achieve; they include:
- political will and a broadly accepted strategy, particularly regarding the identification of reactors that need to be shut down and the means of production that will replace them: countries which are undergoing sometimes appalling economic and energy crises cannot be required to do without what electricity is available from their reactors, however dangerous or obsolete they are;
- a clear, properly targeted and, above all, sustained financial commitment by western countries, with most of the money being channelled through international financial institutions;
- effective technical support, which can provided by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) or consortiums of operators, safety assessment institutions, safety authorities and so on offering their expertise to decision makers. Moreover, the aid procedures adopted by the various protagonists should not substitute for or hinder the concrete steps required to bring plants up to an acceptable standard. Reference has often been made to the Marshall Plan; we should bear in mind the conditions for its success.
Concerning the technical support, the AIEA is providing, upon request, assistance for the review of the modernization programmes which are established by individual countries. The NEA is developing a co-operation programme with the central and eastern European countries, composed of transfer of safety knowledge, support to Regulatory Authorities and encouragement and support of safety R&D. A large-scale international nuclear reactor safety project (Rasplav), sponsored by the NEA, brings together 14 OECD member countries and Russia and it will be carried out over three years.
In the longer term, the development of scientific and technical co-operation should make it possible to maintain the excellent, but often under-exploited, range of skills available in central and eastern Europe.
D. Disaster strategies
The NEA of OECD initiated recently a series of international nuclear emergency exercises (INEX 2), involving 28 countries from Eastern and Western Europe, Asia and North America. The scenarios for the exercises, which will carried until 1998, are based on simulated nuclear accidents.
The Division of Environmental Information and Assessment (DEIA) of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is currently drawing up a reaction plan to deal with damage to nuclear power plants. The plan, based on information supplied by the Power Reactor Information System (PRIS), will help the IAEA to develop precise strategies, adapted to individual circumstances, which can be applied in the event of an accident or incident in a nuclear installation.
The Global Resource Information Database (GRID), which is part of the DEIA, has established a plan of nuclear power plants operating throughout the world at the end of 1993. Your rapporteur has updated the part of the plan relating to Europe (Appendix 2). Other types of plan have been drawn up for a series of nuclear power plants, containing the information needed in the event of nuclear accidents in order to deal with the consequences. Such plans include details on the population, infrastructure and natural and physical characteristics of the areas surrounding these installations (Appendices 3a and 3b).
Nearly four years ago, the Assembly recommended the Committee of Ministers to invite governments to step up international co-operation on improving the state of nuclear power plants in the countries of central and eastern Europe and set out the practical steps that were required.
There appeared to an increasingly widespread awareness of the potential threat posed by these installations to Europe as a whole; witness the simple fact of the Moscow summit.
The adoption of the Convention on Nuclear Safety constitutes major progress in this field. The Convention codifies the fundamental safety principles governing the regulation, management and operations of nuclear installations, and the requirement to establish and maintain a legislative and regulatory framework.
Unfortunately, practical achievements in the field have been less spectacular. There is still no high level institutionalised decision making mechanism, with clearly defined powers. The IAEA or the OECD's NEA would be capable of providing the necessary technical and scientific support while financial support for its decisions could come from the Nuclear Safety Account of the EBRD.
As already mentioned, the subject of the Nuclear Safety Account was raised in the contribution to the Assembly's debate on the activities of the EBRD in 1995 (Doc 7576). The current system for soliciting contributions often reduces the effectiveness of the aid to central and eastern Europe. The Bank has no sanctions at its disposal when recipient countries fail to respect their timetable of political commitments. Finally, the resources available to the Account fall significantly short of what it requires to fulfil its original purpose.
At a time when things really seem to be starting to move - albeit still hesitantly and very slowly - the Assembly must now try to take full advantage of the fact that it is made up of members from 40 European parliaments. It might be in a position to effect a convergence between the efforts of the various countries and international organisations, which have the same goal, but are using widely differing approaches.
- IAEA Bulletin (collection)
- NEA Bulletin (collection)
- NEA Annual Report (collection)
- Technical Safety Organisation Group (TSOG): "The Strategy of TSOG Assistance to Eastern Regulatory Authorities", October 1995
- EBRD: Annual Reports 1993-95
- EBRD: "The Nuclear Safety Account", December 1994
- "Report on nuclear power plants in central and eastern Europe" (Doc 6736), January 1993 (Rapporteur: Philippe Bassinet)
- "Contribution to the Assembly debate on the activities of the EBRD in the field of nuclear safety" (Doc 7576), June 1996 (Rapporteur: Claude Birraux)
- Claude Birraux: "Le contrôle de la sûreté et de la sécurité des installations nucléaires" (monitoring the safety and security of nuclear installations), December 1994 - French parliamentary office for assessing scientific and technological options; National Assembly no 1825; Senate no 172
- Claude Birraux: "Contrôle de la sûreté et de la sécurité des installations nucléaires" (monitoring the safety and security of nuclear installations), March 1996 - French parliamentary office for assessing scientific and technological options; National Assembly no 2651; Senate no 278
CONVENTION ON NUCLEAR SAFETY
List of signature, ratification, acceptance, approval or accession
State Date of signature Means and dates of Entry into
expression of consent Force
to be bound
Algeria 20 Sept. 1994
Argentina* 20 Oct. 1994
Armenia 22 Sept. 1994
Australia 20 Sept. 1994
Austria 20 Sept. 1994
Bengladesh 21 Sept. 1995 21 Sept. 1995 (accepted) 24 Oct. 1996
Belgium* 20 Sept. 1994
Brazil* 20 Sept. 1994
Bulgaria* 20 Sept. 1994 8 Nov. 1995 (ratified) 24 Oct. 1996
Canada* 20 Sept. 1994 12 Dec. 1995 (ratified) 24 Oct. 1996
Chile 20 Sept. 1994
China* 20 Sept. 1994 9 Apr. 1996 (ratified) 24 Oct. 1996
Croatia 10 April 1995 18 Apr. 1996 (approuved) 24 Oct. 1996
Cuba 20 Sept. 1994
Czech Republic* 20 Sept. 1994 18 Sept. 1995 (approuved) 24 Oct. 1996
Denmark 20 Sept. 1994
Egypt 20 Sept. 1994
Finland* 20 Sept. 1994 22 Jan. 1996 (accepted) 24 Oct. 1996
France* 20 Sept. 1994 13 Sept. 1995 (approuvé) 24 Oct. 1996
Germany* 20 Sept. 1994
and 5 Oct.1994
Ghana 06 Juil. 1995
Greece 01 Nov. 1994
Hungary* 20 Sept. 1994 18 March 1996 (ratified) 24 Oct. 1996
Iceland 21 Sept. 1995
India* 20 Sept. 1994
Indonesia 20 Sept. 1994
Ireland 20 Sept. 1994 11 July 1996 (ratified) 24 Oct. 1996
Israel 22 Sept. 1994
Italy 27 Sept. 1994
Japan* 20 Sept. 1994 12 May 1995 (accepted) 24 Oct. 1996
Jordan 06 Dec. 1994
Rep. of korea* 20 Sept. 1994 19 Sept. 1995 (ratified) 24 Oct. 1996
Lebanon 07 March 1995 5 June 1996 (ratified) 24 Oct. 1996
Lithuania* 22 March 1995 12 Juin 1996 (ratified) 24 Oct. 1996
Luxembourg 20 Sept. 1994
Mali 22 May 1995 13 May 1996 (ratified) 24 Oct. 1996
Mexico* 09 Nov. 1994 26 July 1996 (ratified) 24 Oct. 1996
Morocco 01 Dec. 1994
Netherlands 20 Sept. 1994
Nicaragua 23 Sept. 1994
Nigeria 21 Sept. 1994
Norway 21 Sept. 1994 29 Sept. 1996 (ratified) 24 Oct. 1996
Pakistan* 20 Sept. 1994
Peru 22 Sept. 1994
Philippines 14 Oct. 1994
Poland 20 Sept. 1994 14 June 1995 (ratified) 24 Oct. 1996
Portugal 03 Oct. 1994
Romania* 20 Sept. 1994 1 June 1995 (ratified) 24 Oct. 1996
Russian Fed.* 20 Sept. 1994 12 July 1996 (accepted) 24 Oct. 1996
Slovak Republic* 20 Sept. 1994 7 March 1995 (ratified) 24 Oct. 1996
Slovenia* 20 Sept. 1994
South Africa* 20 Sept. 1994
Spain* 15 Nov. 1994 4 July. 1995 (ratified) 24 Oct. 1996
Sudan 20 Sept. 1994
Sweden* 20 Sept. 1994 11 Sept. 1995 (ratified) 24 Oct. 1996
Switzerland* 31 Oct. 1995
Syria 23 Sept. 1994
Tunisia 20 Sept. 1994
Turkey 20 Sept. 1994 8 March 1995 (ratified) 24 Oct. 1996
Ukraine* 20 Sept. 1994
United Kingdom* 20 Sept. 1994 17 Janv. 1996 (ratified)3 24 Oct. 1996
United States* 20 Sept. 1994
Uruguay 28 Fev. 1996
* Indicates that the State has at least one nuclear installation which has achieved criticality in a reactor core; sources: table 1 "Nuclear Power Reactors in Operation and Under Construction", April 1994 edication of "Nuclear Power Reactors in the World", Reference Data Series No. 2, IAEA, Vienna; Government notification.
(*) Indicates reservation/declaration was deposited upon signature (text attached).
NOTE: The Convention, pursuant to Article 31.1, will enter into force on the ninetieth day after the date of deposit with the Depositary of the twenty-second instrument of ratification, acceptance or approval, including the instruments of seventeen States, each having at least one nuclear installation which has achieved criticality in a reactor core, i.e. 24 October 1996.
Status: 63 signatories
25 instruments deposited (of which 17 are from States marked with *). (18 of these instruments are ratifications, 4 are acceptances, 3 are approvals).
Reporting committee: Committee on Science and Technology.
Budgetary implications for the Assembly: none.
Reference to committee: Order No. 487 (1993).
Draft recommendation adopted by the committee with one abstention on 17 December 1996.
Members of the committee: MM. Roseta (Chairman), Birraux, Mrs Terborg (Vice-Chairpersons), MM. About, Bartodziej, Bauer, Beaufays, Bogár, Caccia, Cherep, Cherribi, Chornovil, Cioni, Connolly, Cunliffe, Deguara, Frey, Galley, Golu, Mrs Hoffmann, MM. Janeček, Johansson, Külahli, Leers, Lekberg, Lenzer, Lorenzi, Maass, Melčak, Metelko, Mocioi, Musatov, Nestor, Mrs Nistad (Alternate: M. Lie), MM. Niza, Olrich, Onaindia, Pawlak, Petersen, Požéla, Priedkalns, Prokeš, Prusi, Rokos, Ryabov, Sanz, Mrs Schicker, MM. Szalay, Theis, Sir Donald Thompson, MM. Jack Thompson (Alternate: Lord Newall), Tiuri, Toshev, Turini, Vujić, Weyts, Yürür, Mrs Zisi.
N.B. The names of those members who took part in the vote are printed in italics.
Secretaries of the committee: Mr Perin, Mr Torcătoriu.
1 1 by the Committee on Science and Technology
2 2 Two international conventions lay down international rules governing civil liability in the case of nuclear accidents: the Paris Convention, to which western European states are parties, and the Vienna Convention, to which countries from all parts of the world are parties. These conventions make the operators of nuclear installations (and not the suppliers) strictly liable for nuclear damage to third parties and discharge all other persons from this liability. They are linked up by a common protocol. They require a financial guarantee of a certain amount to cover this liability. The majority of European countries are parties to one or other of these conventions. At the time of the summit, Canada, Japan, Russia and the United States were not parties to either convention. Canada, Japan and the United States have effective domestic legislation on civil liability in the nuclear field, which makes the operator directly liable. Russia adopted framework legislation to that effect shortly before the summit.
3 3 for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Bailiwick of Guernsey, the Bailiwick of Jersey and the Isle of Man.