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18.3.  Euratom and the nuclear research of the EU

  1. Nuclear fission in the EU
  2. Controlled thermonuclear fusion in the EU

Nuclear energy has the potential to provide Europe with a secure and sustainable electricity supply at a competitive price. Efforts to develop the safety and security of nuclear energy systems can strengthen the European Union's industrial competitiveness, through exploiting the European technological advance and enhance the public acceptance of nuclear energy. Minimising radiation exposure from all sources, including medical exposures and natural radiation, may improve the quality of life and may help in addressing health and environmental problems. The Commission has specific Treaty obligations in nuclear energy and it has always relied on the JRC to provide a technical support that can keep up with technological developments and face new challenges. However, both the focus of the Euratom Treaty and the missions of the JRC have undergone radical changes since the early days, the most important being that Euratom research is now mainly concerned with nuclear fission safety, on the one hand, and with thermonuclear fusion, on the other.

The Research and Training Programme of the Community for the period from 1 January 2014 to 31 December 2018 (the 'Euratom Programme') contributes to achieving the objectives of the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation [see section 18.2.2] and facilitates implementation of the Europe 2020 strategy [see section 7.3] and the creation and operation of the European Research Area [see sections 18.2.1 and 18.2.5].

The Euratom Programme's indirect actions have the following specific objectives: (a) supporting safety of nuclear systems; (b) contributing to the development of safe, longer term solutions for the management of ultimate nuclear waste, including final geological disposal as well as partitioning and transmutation; (c) supporting the development and sustainability of nuclear expertise and excellence in the Union; (d) supporting radiation protection and development of medical applications of radiation, including, inter alia, the secure and safe supply and use of radioisotopes; (e) moving towards demonstration of feasibility of fusion as a power source by exploiting existing and future fusion facilities; (f) laying the foundations for future fusion power plants by developing materials, technologies and conceptual design; (g) promoting innovation and industrial competitiveness; and (h) ensuring availability and use of research infrastructures of pan-European relevance.

The Euratom Programme's direct actions have the following specific objectives: (a) improving nuclear safety including: nuclear reactor and fuel safety, waste management, including final geological disposal as well as partitioning and transmutation; decommissioning, and emergency preparedness; (b) improving nuclear security including: nuclear safeguards, non-proliferation, combating illicit trafficking, and nuclear forensics; (c) increasing excellence in the nuclear science base for standardisation; (d) fostering knowledge management, education and training; and (e) supporting the policy of the Union on nuclear safety and security.

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