The economic factors pertaining to the nuclear energy market have also not evolved in the manner predicted at the time of signature of the Euratom Treaty [see section 2.1]. In the1950's, it was thought that the arrival on the industrial scene of nuclear energy was just around the corner and the drop in energy prices, which caused this event to be postponed, could not have been foreseen. Nuclear energy in fact only attained economic competitiveness after the 1973 crisis and the momentous increase of oil prices. In the period prior to this, the absence of a genuine nuclear energy market forced each Member State to create an artificial one through vast government research programmes targeted more at the acquisition of basic knowledge than at the encouragement of industrial projects. This pushed the Member States off the straight and narrow path defined by the EAEC (Euratom) Treaty onto parallel technological roads, such as uranium enrichment systems, and sparked off a serious crisis in Euratom between 1965 and 1972.
Nevertheless, the Euratom Treaty provides for a well-functioning common nuclear energy market, characterised by: the abolition of customs duties, charges having equivalent effect and all quantitative restrictions on imports and exports of natural and enriched uranium and other nuclear materials [Article 93 EAEC]; the free movement and free establishment of individuals and companies in the common nuclear energy market [Articles 96 and 97 EAEC); the free movement of capital for the financing of nuclear activities [Articles 99 and 100 EAEC]; the free determination of prices as a result of balancing supply and demand within the Supply Agency [Article 67 EAEC] and the prohibition of discriminatory pricing practices designed to secure a privileged position for certain users [Article 68 EAEC]. Economic operators have to inform the Commission of major investment projects prior to their implementation [Article 41 EAEC] and thus the Commission can inform governments and economic operators in the Member States of the aims and prospects for nuclear energy production in the European Union [Article 40 EAEC].
One interesting feature of the Euratom Treaty is that it offers special status and certain advantages to joint undertakings, which are of primordial importance to the development of the EU's nuclear industry [Article 45 EAEC]. The Council, acting unanimously on a Commission proposal, can grant each joint undertaking all or some of the advantages listed in Annex III to the Euratom Treaty, such as recognition that public interest status applies to the acquisition of immovable property required for the establishment of the joint undertakings or the exemption from all duties and charges when a venture is established [Article 48 and Annex III EAEC). In 1978, this status was granted to an undertaking of vital importance for the growth of the European nuclear industry, namely the joint venture which, as seen in the previous chapter, builds the Joint European Torus (JET), a thermonuclear fusion prototype [Decisions 78/471, 78/472 and 98/585, see section 18.3.2].
Euratom's profile today is very different from the Community which the founding fathers had in mind. Nuclear power is now perceived as a reality which must be regulated in a context in which not only competitiveness but also security of supply and environmental considerations have to be taken into consideration. Indeed, the Euratom Treaty contains binding provisions which organise, regulate and control all civilian nuclear activities, both nuclear power generation and industrial and medical applications. It contributes to scientific progress by supporting research and also provides a high level of radiation protection for all EU citizens by laying down basic standards which are updated in line with scientific progress and by monitoring compliance with these standards [COM/2007/124].
Safety, a major feature of the common nuclear energy market, is perhaps the most important joint achievement in this field. This achievement is, however, of fundamental importance, because it determines the acceptance of the nuclear energy by the public. Nuclear safety is moreover approached from various different angles. Chapter VII of the Euratom Treaty provides for "safeguards". The Commission must be informed of the basic technical specifications of any nuclear plant. The Commission also has to approve procedures for the chemical processing of irradiated materials [Article 78 EAEC]. It must check that all ores, source materials and special fissile materials are not diverted from their intended uses as declared by the users [Article 77 EAEC] and that the latter respect international safeguards and non-proliferation arrangements laid down by an Euratom Regulation [Regulation 302/2005]. The Commission can send inspectors to the Member States who must be given access at any time to all premises, all information and all individuals to the extent necessary to check the ores, source materials and special fissile materials used by the 750 or so nuclear installations, including some 130 reactors, in the EU [Article 81 EAEC]. The Euratom Safeguards Office has the task of ensuring that nuclear material is not diverted from its intended use within the European Union and that the European safeguards obligations under agreements with third countries or international organisations are complied with. In fact, during the early 1990's the Euratom Safeguards Office was called several times to take action in relation to cases of trafficking in nuclear materials from Eastern Europe, but in subsequent evaluations (in 1999 and 2000), the Safeguards Office did not find any indication that nuclear material had been diverted from its intended peaceful use [COM/2003/764].
Should individuals or undertakings be found to have infringed their safety obligations, the Commission can impose penalties, which can in serious cases take the form of the total or partial removal of source materials or special fissile materials [See e.g. Decision 92/194]. Member States are obliged to ensure that the penalties are implemented and, if necessary, that the infringements are corrected by those responsible for them [Article 83 EAEC]. An Agreement between Euratom and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) allows a number of joint inspections of EU installations enabling the IAEA to rationalise its inspection activities and reduce their cost by relying on the Euratom infrastructure (New Partnership Approach). The aim of the IAEA safeguard system, in which the Euratom Safeguards Office plays an important role, is to develop new techniques and methods for the effective detection of undeclared nuclear activities. The European Atomic Energy Community has signed the International Convention on Nuclear Safety concluded in September 1994 in the context of the IAEA [Decision 1999/819]. Its aim is to promote a high level of safety in nuclear power stations worldwide, to prevent accidents and to reduce their consequences by defining statutory obligations. The EU supports IAEA activities in the areas of nuclear security and verification and in the framework of the implementation of the EU strategy against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction [Joint Action 2008/314]. The European Atomic Energy Community participates in the International Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material [Decision 2007/513]. The EAEC has signed agreements for cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy with the United States [Agreement 96/314], and Argentina [Agreement 97/738].
In addition to this, there is a European programme on protection against radiation, namely health protection measures for the population in general and workers in particular against the dangers of ionising radiation (Chapter III, Euratom). European Directives set basic safety standards for the protection of public health and worker health against the dangers inherent in ionising radiation [Directive 96/29, see section 13.5.8], particularly in relation to medical exposure to such radiation [Directive 97/43], and organise the monitoring of transfers of radioactive waste between the Member States and on entrance to and exit from the European Union [Directive 2006/117]. The EU is active in the field of research on reactor safety which, as seen in the previous chapter, is conducted in the Joint Research Centre and in specialised national research centres [see section 18.2.4]. The harmonisation of safety criteria and practices in the Member States produced significant results, particularly with regard to the seismic re-evaluation of nuclear power stations and to highly-automated safeguards systems.
Indeed, since 1990, the Commission has initiated an inter-European cooperation for the exploitation of nuclear installations. The cooperation notably relates to nuclear safeguards in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). This cooperation has allowed the Euratom Safeguards Office to become better acquainted with specific features of the nuclear capacity of the former Soviet Union, chiefly with regard to the mixed (civil/military) nature of the installations. The Euratom Safeguards Office offers the services of its specialists to assist in training CIS inspectors and thus provide a sufficiently high level of materials safeguards. The Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) and the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI) [see sections 25.2 and 25.4] help candidate countries and other countries on the periphery of the EU improve the safety of their nuclear installations. Moreover, the Commission is empowered to use Euratom borrowings to finance projects which increase the safety of nuclear power stations in many of these countries [Decision 77/270]. The EU finances measures to support the promotion of a high level of nuclear safety, radiation protection and the application of efficient and effective safeguards of nuclear material in third countries [Regulation 300/2007]. Cooperation agreements between the European Community/Union and Ukraine in the fields of nuclear safety and controlled nuclear fusion are aimed at the definition and application of scientifically warranted and internationally accepted nuclear safety guidelines, including dismantling of nuclear installations, research and development on nuclear material safeguards, and prevention of illicit trafficking of nuclear material [Decision 2002/924].