UK pulled up over Euratom Treaty

The UK has been accused of failing to comply with two major requirements under the Euratom Treaty when authorising the disposal of radioactive waste from the Devonport Dockyards nuclear plant.

The European Commission has accused the UK of failing to comply with two major requirements under the Euratom Treaty when authorising the disposal of radioactive waste from the Devonport Dockyards Ltd (DML) nuclear plant.

The EU decision follows authorisation for the disposal of radioactive waste from DML, arising from the refitting and refuelling of nuclear submarines, without implementing the notification provisions of Article 37 of the Euratom Treaty and the justification principle of articles 6 (1) and 6 (2) of Directive 96/29/Euratom.

Article 37 of the Euratom Treaty states that the Commission should assess plans for the disposal of radioactive waste. This is to determine whether the disposal of nuclear waste has the potential to adversely impact the health of people living in other EU member states.

Each Member State must provide the Commission with general data relating to any plan for the disposal of radioactive waste in whatever form. An assessment of the transboundary effects arising from the implementation of the plan submitted is then made.

Articles 6(1) and 6(2) of Directive 96/29/Euratom establish the justification principle according to which the detriment arising from a new or existing practice must not outweigh the benefits that can be drawn from it. This principle constitutes a major principle of the radiation protection system.

In January 2002, the Commission was informed that the UK’s Environment Agency was about to grant a new authorisation for the disposal of radioactive waste, without taking account of Article 37 of the Euratom Treaty provisions nor of the justification principle.

This failure to comply with these provisions led the Commission to open an infringement procedure against the United Kingdom. The Commission is expected to file a formal complaint to the European Court of Justice.