EURATOM

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EURATOM is an European treaty, particular element of the foundation of the European Union. Unrecognized even by most anti-nuclear campaigners, it is a main obstacle for a consistent nuclear phase-out in Europe - in spite of phase-out decisions made by several national parliaments. Thus, campaigns have been installed since a few years - on the on hand addressing politicians and governments to act, on the other one to educate anti-nuclear organizers and activists about the relevance of this treaty.

This page aims on providing a basis for the interested public gathering information in English on the EURATOM treaty - basic knowledge, history, campaigns and examples for the impact of this intergovernmental contract on anti-nuclear efforts.


Contents


Relevance

Unchanged since 1957 - even despite Chernobyl and Fukushima - those characters on paper that make up the EURATOM Treaty are much more powerful and influential than many are aware of, even within the antinuclear movement. Through tremendous privileges for nuclear industry and research laid down in the Treaty itself and in secondary EU legislation (binding regulations, guidelines, recommendations), EURATOM is the fertile ground on which new nuclear installations and, subsequently, ever more uranium mining, radioactive waste and weapons material proliferation grow. Ultimately, this means increased risks on the one hand, and more work, never-ending work for citizens.

Thus, it is a double anachronism: in substance, and with regard to how public opinion has evolved. The EURATOM Treaty keeps spawning EU secondary legislation, and continues to be highly effective in favour of the nuclear industry. EURATOM's supreme goal, "the development of a powerful nuclear industry" (Preamble), is by no means so obsolete for part of the European "elites" as it seems in nuclear-free or phase-out countries: to them, it is nuclear energy - not renewables - that shall lead Europe into a fossil-free era! New fission reactors, esp. fast breeders ("Generation-4" reactors; government decision already taken in France for a prototype named "Astrid"), and nuclear fusion (ITER reactor in the making at Cadarache, F) are to pave the way into Europe’s energy future. Both development lines are supported with billions through the Research and Training Programme of the European Atomic Energy Community.

Moreover, these reactor developments may be determined by military interest - a most likely background motive for clinging to nuclear power no matter what it costs. This two-fold civil-military objective has been stated explicitly by French admiral Pierre Lacoste, former German general army inspector Klaus-Dieter Naumann, prominent European politicians like François Mitterrand and former EU Commission president Jacques Delors, and others.[1]

Clinging so brazenly to the EURATOM bastion goes hand in hand with the undemocratic nature of the Atomic Community: in EURATOM matters, even today, the European Parlia-ment has no decisional powers, e.g. in the financing of nuclear power plants through cheap EURATOM loan billions (in Western Europe first, and in CEE countries since the 1990s).

All of this leads to massive distortion of competition on the back of renewables.

In spite of the nuclear phase-out, hundreds of millions of euros[2] are paid by Germany to the EURATOM research programme, on the back of there own energy transition ("Energiewende"), and of energy transition in Europe as a whole. With the phase-out decision, German EURATOM membership and payments for the Treaty's nuclear power promotion purposes have definitely become absurd.


Three options for action: abolition, revision, withdrawal

In its draft final report, German Chancellor Merkel's "Ethics Commission" for the post-Fukushima phase-out has recommended Germany’s withdrawal from EURATOM membership as "the better solution".[3] Termination of the EURATOM Treaty lies in the power of each member state. Three expertises from German and Austrian universities[4] confirm that withdrawal from EURATOM is juridically feasible without affecting overall EU membership. The Lisbon Treaty, too, is positive and explicit on treaty termination. Useful elements of the EURATOM Treaty can be shifted to other parts of the EU treaty system.

The other two options, EURATOM Treaty abolition or revision, require agreement by all other member states. Therefore, they are utterly unrealistic: The German Bundestag (the Regions' Chamber of Parliament) advocated a very concrete EURATOM reform proposed by the Saarland Region as early as 1989, in the wake of Chernobyl. And so did five EU member states in the EU Constitutional Process in 2005.[5] No revision conference has ever taken place, though. Nuclear countries may be brought more easily to agree to revision, however, if Germany decides to set that unprecedented, exemplary act: i.e. announce its withdrawal from EURATOM! And it was just this what the Bundestag in 2003 asked the Federal Government to do.


Examples

The complaint filed by German municipal and regional utilities against the billions of tax-free provisions for nuclear waste disposal made by the German "Big Four" nuclear power companies was rejected by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in 2006 with reference to the EURATOM Treaty.

Lately (October 2014), the British government and the European Commission (EC) have referred to the EURATOM Treaty in order to justify the approval of big subsidies for the planned nuclear power station HINKLEY POINT C. Probably because they know full well that the 1957 nuclear-euphoric preamble and introductory articles of the EURATOM Treaty provide the only chance for the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to reject the forthcoming Austrian complaint against these subsidies, while EU competition rules would entail legal victory for Austria.


Campaigns

The Austrian antinuclear movement has a long tradition of EURATOM criticism. In 2015 Salzburg Plattform gegen Atomgefahren (PLAGE) elaborated an "EURATOM Manifesto for Germany", as a tool to crystallize basic knowledge of the Treaty's juridical and political momentum, and a common "EURATOM consciousness", within the German anti-nuclear and renewables movement for a start. So far, such knowledge and consciousness are quite limited. This is a condition for reaching out to the broader public later on.

Resources


  1. "Will Europe, on ist way to unification, be able to overcome its fears and superstitions and to progress toward full mastery of nuclear power? In its military form, it is doubtlessly bound to keep its indispensable role for years (...). In its industrial form, it warrants unlimited energy - the supreme condition for development and prosperity and thus for peace." P. LACOSTE, then president of the Fondation pour les Etudes de Défense Nationale, and one of the highest-ranking French officers. From his preface to Olivier PIROTTE et al.: Trente an d’expérience Euratom - La naissance d’une Europe nucléaire. Bruylant, Brussels 1988. - See references to Mitterrand, Delors and others in H. STOCKINGER: Atomstaat, zweiter Anlauf? Die zivile und militärische Integration Österreichs in die Europäische Atomgemeinschaft, publ. by the Austrian umbrella organization AntiAtomInternational(AAI), Vienna, 1993.
  2. In the run-up to the 2014 European Parliament elections, Mütter gegen Atomkraft e.V. (Mothers Against Nuclear Power) asked top candidates: "How much does Germany pay each year to fulfill EURATOM obligations?" CDU, CSU and SPD answered in unison: "The current financing scope of the EURATOM research programme (2014-2018) amounts to a total of about 1.6 billion euros." Green MEP R. HARMS, a long-standing expert on the issue: "5.077 billion euros." - Now, the EURATOM research programme is by no means the whole expense: the EURATOM Fuel Suplly Agency (ESA), EURATOM loan management and European Investment Bank (EIB) financing, the Nuclear Safety Cooperation Facility (ex PHARE and TACIS aid to Eastern Europe programmes), etc., do not all formally belong under the EURATOM heading, yet have to be counted among EU nuclear financing systems.
  3. Ethik-Kommission, living document Kap 1-all, 201 10504.
  4. Manfred ROTTER, University of Linz (2003); Michael GEISTLINGER, University of Salzburg (2005); Bernhard WEGENER, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg (2007).
  5. Austria, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Luxemburg, Sweden.

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