The European Union and the International Atomic Energy Agency took steps to strengthen their cooperation in a range of nuclear activities including nuclear science applications during the fifth annual Senior Officials Meeting in Brussels this week.
The talks on 15 February 2017 at the EU headquarters provided a forum to exchange views on enhancing collaboration in nuclear safety, security, safeguards, sustainable development and nuclear energy research and innovation and nuclear science applications. In addition, mechanisms to strengthen regional cooperation were discussed, including for the environmental remediation of uranium legacy sites in Central Asia. There were exchanges on the 2017 PrepCom of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
"The EU continues to attach great importance to the IAEA's core responsibilities in the field of non-proliferation, nuclear energy, nuclear safety, nuclear security and technical cooperation. The strong political support by the Union and its Member States is backed also financially and technically", said Marc Giacomini, European External Action Service Deputy Managing Director for Human Rights, Global and Multilateral Issues.
"The EU and the IAEA continue to strengthen their cooperation. This meeting was a good opportunity to review progress and to discuss next steps in priority areas, in particular support to Member States in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals", said Cornel Feruta, Chief Coordinator for the IAEA.
The SOM acknowledged that nuclear safety is a key priority that will remain at the centre of cooperation between the EU and the IAEA. Gerassimos Thomas, Deputy Director General in the Directorate-General for Energy of the European Commission looked forward to "an ambitious implementation of the Vienna Declaration supporting continuous safety improvements for countries that operate or are building new nuclear power plants, including in the EU neighbourhood". The EU further emphasized that issues linked with the back end of the life cycle of nuclear facilities, such as decommissioning and radioactive waste management, should receive additional attention, and benefit from increased stakeholder involvement with a focus on increasing transparency on funding and processes leading to national and/or shared repositories.
The EU and the IAEA reaffirmed support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) based on their respective mandates. The EU High Representative, as Coordinator of the Joint Commission established under the JCPOA, will remain in close contact with the IAEA regarding continued implementation of the agreement. The EU will provide technical support to the IAEA such as equipment and training. The EU also informed about its bilateral cooperation with Iran in the implementation of Annex III of the JCPOA, particularly in the area of nuclear safety, including research.
EU support for a variety of IAEA activities has delivered consistent and concrete results in several important areas, including global assistance projects. In the margins of the SOM, Aldo Malavasi, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications and Vladimir Sucha, Director General of the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, signed practical arrangements on cooperation in the field of nuclear science and applications for sustainable development.
Nuclear security was also on the agenda, with talks focused on how to achieve more effective and sustainable measures, including the Union support for IAEA activities in the area of nuclear security, strengthening the security of nuclear and radioactive materials, building on the results of the 2016 International Conference on Nuclear Security and preparations for the International Conference on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and Nuclear Facilities. Developments regarding the IAEA LEU Bank in Kazakhstan, including continued EU support, were also discussed.
On safeguarding nuclear materials, the SOM underlined the close collaboration under the existing arrangements and through the EC support programme.
The next Senior Officials Meeting is expected to take place in Vienna in early 2018.