Euratom’s contradictory fuel supply agreement decisions

The European Atomic Energy Community Euratom refused to accept the fuel supply agreement of Paks nuclear power plant in Hungary. Russian Rosatom would have been responsible of construction and maintenance of the nuclear reactors. Also the fuel would have come from Russia.

Hungary’s dependence on Russian nuclear fuel supply is already hundred percent. Now, Euratom refused to accept Hungary’s plans to lean on Russian fuel in the two new reactors.

Finnish Olkiluoto’s two nuclear reactors are operating with American Westinghouse’s fuel. Finnish nuclear power production is 35.9 per cent dependent on Russian fuel. If Fennovoima was built, the dependency would raise to 56 per cent (assuming that Olkiluoto’s infamous unit 3 is not connected to the network within the timeframe of our comprehension). When we assess dependence we should also assess the security of supply resulting from potential problems in Fennovoima’s fuel supply.

In practice, the EU has blocked Rosatom’s new projects in Hungary when confirming that the fuel agreements are against the EU law. If Hungary wants to continue the questionable project, it will either have to find an alternative supplier elsewhere and then persuade Russia to renegotiate the fuel contracts. Both mean a laborious and difficult path for Hungary – and rightly so.

The approval of fuel supply agreements of nuclear plants falls into the competence of Euratom. Very little information is given outside. Last week, the Hungarian Parliament decided, based on national security, to continue classification of the fuel agreements for another 30 years.

Equally classified confidential is the fuel contract of Fennovoima’s nuclear project in Finland designed by Rosatom.

In my opinion, the citizens’ should have the right to assess the impact of the nuclear fuel supply agreements on the environment, health and safety. This is why I, in December 2014, asked the decision by which Euratom and the Commission approved Fennovoima’s and Russian supplier TVEL’s fuel supply agreement. I referred to EU’s transparency regulation according to which the EU citizens should have access to public authorities’ documents. I received a negative reply.

I did not settle for the answer, but send a confirmatory request referring to Aarhus Convention that guarantees public access to environmental information.

According to the second reply, Euratom classified Fennovoima’s fuel agreement because it contains commercially sensitive information, as well as information that would undermine the protection of public interest related to external relations.

Euratom states that the disclosure of origin of fuel, composition and supply could endanger public safety, and would therefore be contrary to the public interest. Since it is impossible to distinguish that information from the rest of the content, the document could not be disclosed.

It shows great blindness to refer to a danger that could result from the disclosure to EU’s or member states’ relations with Russia. The most concrete lesson learnt from the political crisis in Ukraine should be to reduce EU’s dependence on Russian energy. The Commission has in its energy security communication called for more transparency in energy agreements concluded between the EU members and third countries. Gas is certainly not the only source of dependency.

The Commission also appeared to give controversial information in panic. Although Hungary has declared its fuel contract classified for 30 years, the Commission is apparently conducting a debate with Hungary on some degree of disclosure of documents.

Commission’s Finnish spokesperson claimed that Fennovoima fuel supply agreement is public information, and even found on Commission’s website. That is not true. That is why I requested them.

According to Euratom, the Commission has the right to revoke its decision. I therefore urge the Commission to immediately repeal the infringing decision that goes against common sense of justice. First, there is no possibility to distinguish between the cases which Euratom considers to be in accordance with the EU law (Fennovoima), and which not (Paks). Secondly, the citizens must have access to documents that concern public security and external relations.

Requests for documents and Euratom’s replies:

Request for document 2.12.2014

Reply from Euratom 30.12.2014

Confirmatory request 23.1.2015

Reply from Euratom requesting more time 12.2.2015

Reply to the confirmatory request 5.3.2015