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Procedure : 2011/0046(NLE)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A7-0360/2011

Texts tabled :

A7-0360/2011

Debates :

PV 16/11/2011 - 17
CRE 16/11/2011 - 17

Votes :

PV 17/11/2011 - 6.3
Explanations of votes
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P7_TA(2011)0509

Debates
Wednesday, 16 November 2011 - Strasbourg OJ edition

17. Framework Programme of the European Atomic Energy Community for nuclear research and training activities (debate)
Video of the speeches
PV
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  President. − The next item is the report by Jan Březina, on behalf of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, on the proposal for a Council decision concerning the Framework Programme of the European Atomic Energy Community for nuclear research and training activities (2012 – 2013) (COM(2011)0072 – C7-0077/2011 – 2011/0046(NLE)) (A7-0360/2011).

 
  
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  Jan Březina, rapporteur. − (CS) Madam President, the aim of the legislation on which we voted in part on Tuesday, when we passed three of the four proposed legislative standards, is to ensure the continuation of the programme for nuclear research for the years 2012 and 2013. The Seventh Framework Programme for science and research covers a seven-year period, the Seventh Euratom Framework Programme has a five-year period, and it was therefore necessary to ensure funding for two years.

The Euratom Framework Programme concerns research activities in the field of nuclear energy, nuclear fusion and nuclear fission, radiation protection and the development of expertise in these areas. It is part of the legislative package which contains the draft Council Decisions for the Framework Programme, two specific programmes for direct and indirect actions and rules for the participation in the programme. As rapporteur I had the opportunity to cooperate with the other shadow rapporteurs and I greatly thank them for their cooperation. I would like to also thank the other institutions with which I have worked, including the Joint Research Centre, which provided me with a professional background and valuable information throughout.

Throughout my work on the reports, I emphasised that this legislation concerns research into, rather than the use of nuclear energy. There are various opinions regarding the use of nuclear energy for electricity production and in the energy mix, which we must all respect. It is the Member States that have the supreme authority in this area. The field of nuclear research is, by contrast, different. There is a need to gather together scientific knowledge and fund the next phase of research, simply because these events are part of the reality of the world. If we do not carry out research, it will be done by our competitors from other continents, which will have an adverse impact on our competitiveness and will lead to us being behind the times.

In my report I have attempted to also reflect the world after the Fukushima tragedy. I have tried to highlight the topics for the benefit of countries which have opted for the phasing out of nuclear energy. I have emphasised the importance of research associated with the dismantling of nuclear power stations, enhanced safety and safe management of nuclear waste. In this context, I would like to emphasise one thing. Since the beginning of the negotiations on these four reports our colleagues from the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance have tabled a large number of amendments aimed at the elimination of the budgetary items in this programme and the maximum restriction thereof. The vast majority of these proposals were rejected when voting in Committee; yesterday, unfortunately, when voting on the direct actions conducted by the Joint Research Centre, Amendment 9 was approved, which partially restricts the original text of the Commission on research into actinides. This research is in fact absolutely essential and could lead to such processing of nuclear waste which would significantly reduce the quantity of the isotopes with a longer half-life, thereby greatly contributing to the protection of the environment. This research is also important for the development of new medical applications which are used for the benefit of all Europeans. Ladies and gentlemen, European nuclear research and training are essential to foster European competitiveness, economic growth and to achieve scientific excellence. I therefore invite you to support this programme.

 
  
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  Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Member of the Commission. − Madam President, I am delighted to have this opportunity to have an exchange of views before the final vote on the proposal for a Council decision concerning the Framework Programme of the Euratom programme for 2012 and 2013.

I congratulate the rapporteur, Mr Březina, for this excellent and enriching document. I would also like, as he did, to thank the shadow rapporteurs of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy who contributed, and also those of the Committee on Budgets who delivered its opinion.

Parliament has been showing great interest in this whole issue of research activity funded under the Euratom Treaty. The Commission welcomes these important and useful reports. I wish to underline that the report on the Framework Programme, and the other reports, recognise the importance of research funded under the Euratom Treaty for vital objectives such as enhancing the safety of nuclear energy and improving the management of nuclear waste.

Each Member State, as Mr Březina rightly said, is free to determine its own energy supply mix, and some of the largest EU countries do use nuclear energy, but some of the consequences of those choices do not stop at one’s own borders. In the current European and international context, Europe certainly needs more, not less, EU-level funding for research into nuclear safety and security, and this is the focus of the Framework Programme.

As the rapporteur correctly underlined, this proposal is coherent with the overall political strategy of the European Union, as expressed in particular through the Europe 2020 and the Energy 2020 strategies, the SET-plan and the European Sustainable Nuclear Industrial Initiative. The aim is to work towards a more sustainable energy mix for the future, and this programme contributes to that effort. Giving a strong priority to nuclear safety and security in the programme is a point of convergence between the three institutions. The Council has already clearly given its orientation, Parliament is now doing so, and the Commission shares this view and will rigorously apply it in the implementation of the programme.

The report recommends measures for the simplification of the implementation of research funding, and I could not agree more with Parliament that this simplification is absolutely essential. As you know, this is the clear direction we are taking, especially in the context of preparing Horizon 2020. However, some practical results of our simplification policy are already visible in this proposal. In particular, it integrates a number of measures adopted by the Commission decision last January to cut red tape through simplification.

Let me also address your recommendation for the focus areas on which the Framework Programme should concentrate its efforts. I have already mentioned the nuclear safety and security aspect. Beyond that, the Commission agrees that most of the areas listed in your reports are of major importance, such as radiation protection – a research area that is also important beyond the energy sector, in particular in the field of medicine.

Training will also be a principle activity of this programme, since the EU urgently needs to address some human capital issues within this sector. While implementing the programme, the Commission will certainly give priority to these areas to the extent allowed by the availability of funds and to the overall priority of safety.

This report also supports funding for research activities in the field of fusion energy, including the ITER project. Fusion is a promising research field that aims to provide a totally new energy source for the future. This programme seeks to pave the way for the success of ITER and establishes a set of accompanying measures to ensure that Europe will continue to be the major player in this field. Prominent among these measures is the funding of JET, located in the UK – a facility that is set to make major scientific contributions to ITER.

Regarding ITER specifically, this report also contains Parliament’s position regarding the financing of this project for 2012 and 2013. The Commission welcomes this position and takes note of the ongoing negotiations to reach an interinstitutional agreement on this proposal. It is absolutely urgent, as the House knows, that this decision be taken as soon as possible. As long as a decision is not taken, the Framework Programme cannot be adopted. That creates uncertainty for a lot of researchers all around Europe who do not know if they will continue to receive funding from 1 January. I am thinking in particular about those employed in JET. Europe cannot afford to lose these researchers or lose their knowledge and their competences. We also need this decision to maintain our credibility vis-à-vis our international partners. For example, tomorrow the European Commission will represent the EU at an ITER Council meeting with our international partners, while the next trialogue meeting takes place on Friday.

Europe fought for years to be the host of this project and now, after more than one year of debate, we have not yet been able to take the financing decision needed to bring this project forward. It is difficult to explain this to our international partners and I urge the House therefore, on the basis of tomorrow’s vote, to strike a deal with the Council as soon as possible.

 
  
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  Carl Haglund, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Budgets. Madam President, allow me first of all to express my gratitude on behalf of our committee to the rapporteur. He has done a very thorough and good job.

I think all of us also appreciate the fact that nuclear safety gets a totally new emphasis in this report, something that is very important after the events in Fukushima.

We all know, and the Commissioner has very rightly just stated, how important the Euratom community is, and the activities mainly around ITER, are for us, and therefore the report outlines a very good path for the future.

The Committee on Budgets has of course focused on the economic aspects of the activities and here we have some challenges which were also well outlined by the Commissioner.

Of course, we should not endanger one of the largest research projects in the world by internal European quarrelling on the budget; that is very clear. At the same time Parliament has wanted to underline the fact that this whole ITER project for Euratom was not foreseen in this way when this current MMF was agreed upon and this, of course, has affected the situation.

We have a challenging proposal before us for ITER to be financed through redeployment from FP7, something that Parliament has not seen as a good solution. On Friday, the Committee on Budgets and its representatives will continue negotiating on the 2012 budget with the Council. These issues will be on the table. I am sure we can find a constructive solution. That, however, also requires the Council to understand that financing ITER cannot happen at the expense of other important research activities within the Framework Programme.

 
  
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  Vladimir Urutchev, on behalf of the PPE Group.(BG) Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, the funding of the research for the EuratomFramework Programme must also continue in 2012-13 at least, for the following reasons.

Firstly, research is targeted at improving the safety of nuclear facilities, both existing reactors and those from a future fourth generation. This is an area where Europe has the highest standards and it must retain its leading position.

Secondly, these funds will help improve nuclear technologies in medicine, which is one of their most important areas of application, via radiotherapy. There can hardly be any doubt about the need for their beneficial application in this area.

Thirdly, we have already launched specific scientific research projects of paramount importance to Europe, which will contribute to a more efficient use of resources and to meeting the short- and long-term energy and environmental objectives which we have stood firm on.

Fourthly, we must be consistent when implementing our decisions, which also includes our commitment to the ITER fusion project. It is important that we do not stop its funding because our aim is to find a possible energy source of the future which is, at the same time, safe, sustainable, low carbon and environmentally friendly.

The scale of the majority of nuclear research projects is such that few Member States could provide the necessary resources and expertise alone. Indeed, we have economic problems, but we cannot afford the luxury of wasting long years of efforts and benefits that we still have. We must think about social progress and the debt crisis, but we must also clearly recognise the contribution made by nuclear energy to the European economy’s competitiveness, a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and energy supply security.

 
  
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  Teresa Riera Madurell, on behalf of the S&D Group.(ES) Madam President, Commissioner, although this reports only deals with the redefinition of the Euratom Framework Programme over the next two years, with the objective of temporarily realigning the two European Research Framework Programmes, it is important to take into account that, since 2006, when the current Euratom programme was approved, two events of great significance have occurred: the nuclear accident at Fukushima and the announcement by several European countries that the useful life of power stations will not be extended.

Contrary to how it may first appear, the medium-term prospect of dismantling nuclear power stations in some EU countries does not mean we should cut back on nuclear research. Even if all the nuclear power stations were to close tomorrow, we would still have to manage the waste, improve how it is stored and decontaminated, and reduce the volume, among many other issues that have already been mentioned and which require sufficient investment in research and development.

For that reason, to be able to provide answers to these significant challenges, it is also vital that the best scientists continue to be involved in nuclear research. Investing in the training of human capital is therefore also of the utmost importance and something that is also considered in the Euratom Programme.

On the other hand, if one thing is clear after Fukushima, it is that the scientific basis for taking on the risks of operating the power station was not solid enough, which shows the importance of guaranteeing the safety of the reactors that are currently in use and the safety of the spent fuel cycle through the results of an in-depth, rigorous investigation; more than enough reasons to support the need to strengthen these lines of research in the current Euratom Framework Programme.

Finally, Commissioner, I too should like to mention the urgent need to find a definitive solution for the funding of the ITER programme, a solution which, as the report clearly states, does not mean a reallocation of funds from the Seventh Framework Programme, but rather an increase in the Multiannual Financial Framework for the years 2012-2013, by increasing the ceiling of heading 1a.

Madam President, Commissioner, with respect to the ITER project, our group wishes for a sensible compromise to be reached with the Council as soon as possible, which allows for the early adoption of this dossier.

 
  
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  Adina-Ioana Vălean, on behalf of the ALDE Group. Madam President, despite diverging views political groups might have about nuclear technology, it is good to see there is a wide convergence and agreement in this Parliament on the need to continue investing in nuclear research and development.

It is worrying to see the decreasing interest of science students in nuclear engineering. Do we really think we can afford to disregard our nuclear needs in energy consumption, in medical applications and in nuclear safety with the managed decommissioning and dismantling of nuclear power stations for the decades to come?

Unfortunately, contrary to what some populists would have us believe, in the case of nuclear energy you cannot decide to just switch off the power and hope that all related problems magically disappear. We will need more scientists and engineers to deal with the challenges posed by nuclear power, but also to make the most of the opportunities it offers for growth, innovation, health and many other applications. That is why we must dedicate more investment to training and we must change public perception to attract students and encourage scientific careers and excellence in this field.

In research, one always invests without knowing if and when the scientific breakthrough will be made. As regards the ITER project, we either say we have already spent too much money – and if we decided to stop it here it would be lost – or we continue investing and keep the faith. I believe the last option is the one we should take. However, I do not agree that this project should continue to get massive financial injections without ensuring any kind of democratic control.

Now, Parliament is required to agree on additional funding of EUR 1.3 billion over two years without knowing how these funds will be spent. I believe the minimum we should demand is to be regularly informed and updated on the construction progress and have access to internal audit documents. In addition, we must make sure that such a cost explosion does not occur in the future and have it ring-fenced in the next Multiannual Financial Framework.

Lastly, the Commission will soon make its proposal on the modernisation of public procurement, and I believe that proper and transparent public procurement should also be a part of a European nuclear safety policy because corruption and mismanagement in building nuclear power plants could have unimaginable – or imaginable – consequences.

I hope the Commission will take this aspect into consideration when drafting that proposal.

 
  
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  Evžen Tošenovský, on behalf of the ECR Group. (CS) Madam President, first of all I would like to add my appreciation in respect of the presented material and the work of the rapporteur, Mr Březina. It is hard to have a rational discussion at this time, when the approach to nuclear technology is accompanied by the often exaggerated and even hysterical atmosphere triggered by the events in Fukushima. Fortunately, this does not apply here in this Chamber. The argument that it is important to pay more attention to nuclear research and development of new technology following the events in Japan, which is put forward in this report, is correct. New approaches and technological processes not only increase the operational safety of nuclear installations, but move knowledge forward which can also be used in other areas. Nuclear installations do not only consist of power plants, but they are used in many other fields, and are indispensable in the health sector or in material research, genetics and other areas. I therefore fully stand by the cited thesis that following Fukushima there is a need for more nuclear research rather than a simple condemnation of such technology.

As shadow rapporteur I am glad that the text also includes support for Generation IV fast-neutron reactor technology. These reactors have higher safety levels and are also more efficient in the use of uranium fuel whilst reducing the amount of radioactive waste. One of the largest research programmes in which the European Union is participating is the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project. Nuclear fusion is probably the best hope for resolving the world's growing energy needs. Very good coordination and financial control is required for this project due to its huge financial cost. Supervision of this project is essential in order that it does not become mere research without the resultant effect. As shadow rapporteur for the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Group, I fully support and recommend the report of my colleague, Mr Březina.

 
  
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  Vladimír Remek, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. (CS) Madam President, I would also like to add my appreciation in respect of the work of my colleague, Mr Březina. I consider the document to be high-quality and balanced, especially in this atmosphere following the events in Fukushima,. Nuclear energy is regarded with a considerable veneer of emotion and populism, and under such pressure many react irrationally, without specialist knowledge or an argument-based approach. Meanwhile the issues of nuclear fission and fusion, as well as the management of the products of these processes, require the most prudent and responsible attitude possible in the interest of safety levels which are justifiably required. Perhaps it is a paradox that we need still more research and development as well as maintenance of the level of training, and then we need sufficient funding for all of this.

I disagree with the requirements - due to the decision by some countries to downgrade their nuclear programmes - to restrict these activities. Logically, a sufficient number of trained specialists will play a significant role in the actual decommissioning of the nuclear power plants. After all, it is clear that we cannot shut down a nuclear power plant at the flick of a switch, as my colleague, Ms Vălean, stated before me. We all understand that such an energy resource does not come to an end when the gatekeeper locks the doors of the company. One of the amendments in the document supports the enhancement of the supply of information to the public. I consider this to be of utmost importance, because information on the developments in nuclear power can literally be used as a weapon. Incidentally, opponents of this carbon-free energy resource often very skilfully 'shoot' using distorting information as ammunition.

For the sake of the future and competitiveness, we have no other option than to find new resources, and the European Union is involved in the nuclear fusion project. The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) project does not only involve the building of a new leading edge industry, as it also brings new jobs. I consider the finding of funding for the continuation of the ITER project to be our duty as well as funding for the experimental Joint European Torus (JET), which is its laboratory. I gave myself the task of becoming acquainted with the successful activities of the international team directly in Culham, UK. We should ensure the financial perspective for this team not only for the year 2012. Under pressure from the crisis, we cannot just brandish the need for cuts in budgets. We must have clear priorities for the future, otherwise we will remain in crisis forever, and a Europe without power, including that produced by nuclear fission and fusion, will not go anywhere.

 
  
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  Jaroslav Paška , on behalf of the EFD Group. (SK) Madam President, the Framework Programme of the European Atomic Energy Community for nuclear research and training activities extends the atomic research and development measures of the 7th Framework Programme of the European Atomic Energy Community for 2007 – 2011. In accordance with the current financial perspectives and in line with the timeframe of the EU Seventh Framework Programme the proposals will only cover the two years up to 2013, although they are clearly linked to the objectives of the Europe 2020 and Energy 2020 strategies.

Even though the destruction of the Fukushima nuclear energy plant by the tsunami has triggered significant debate on the continued use of atomic energy and most EU countries have decided to limit or end their use, nuclear research continues to be an important part of the Community’s innovation policy. Research into fission in particular will bring new knowledge and more effective and safer opportunities to achieve a stable carbon-free source of energy.

The new fourth generation fast neutron reactors technology will be about 50 times more efficient than current systems and their use of currently known and accessible uranium resources will be sufficient for thousands of years. That is why the European Union and the United States, Russia and China believe it is necessary to continue atomic research, including research into fission and nuclear synthesis.

The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor and its accompanying R&D programmes has the best perspectives with its major potential for safe, environmental, sustainable and cheap sources of energy for Europe. The new regulations for implementing this research will now allow us to carry on at least until 2013.

 
  
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  Béla Kovács (NI).(HU) Madam President, any sane person whose house is on fire is not going to go watering the walnut sapling in his garden hoping that it will maybe produce a yield in 15 years’ time, but will use all the water at his disposal to put out the flames. Scientists of international renown in the field of energy have been warning us for years that our planet is running out of hydrocarbon and carbon reserves, and that this will lead to a global energy crisis within ten years, the effects of which can unfortunately be felt already now. Sensible Greens also know that the only way out of this situation is to immediately accelerate the construction of third generation nuclear power plants that are currently the subject of investments, to restart deactivated reactors, and then to widely spread the application of environmentally friendly fourth generation breeder reactor and molten salt plants as soon as possible, so that we can produce electricity without having to burn carbon and hydrocarbons.

This would at once solve the issue of hydrocarbon emissions as well. Ladies and gentlemen, already now we are late by 10-15 years. That is why we need training, too, to focus on immediately preparing experts for the operation of plants, rather than for their decommissioning, as there is a massive shortage of the former. Furthermore, fourth generation research must be immensely accelerated without delay. We could reallocate the resources for this from research into fusion, because the latter makes as much sense today as watering the sapling instead of extinguishing the flames. Thank you for your attention.

 
  
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  Jean-Pierre Audy (PPE). - (FR) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, my first words will be to congratulate the rapporteur, my friend Jean Březina, on his excellent work.

The European Council meeting of 4 February 2011, known as the EU ‘Energy’ Council, adopted an ambitious European energy policy, intended to assure the people of Europe that they would have safe, sustainable energy at the best price, whose supply would be guaranteed and which would contribute to Europe’s competitiveness. This policy, born out of the Europe 2020 strategy, provides for investment in the development of low-carbon technologies. Nuclear fission and nuclear fusion are included in these energy technologies that we Europeans must maintain, develop and implement. We must do so all the more since we are the undisputed and world-recognised leaders in this field thanks to our businesses, our universities, our engineers, our specialist workers and our research centres.

I should like Ms Geoghegan-Quinn, to congratulate the European Commission, for having quickly tabled this proposal on 7 March 2011, before the tragedy at Fukushima.

I should like to support this proposal for five reasons. First, it aligns the schedules for research programmes with the Multiannual Financial Framework 2007-2013. Second, it stresses safety, which is an essential component of the confidence that the operators of this form of energy have a duty to provide to our fellow citizens. We are pleased that the Union can continue to invest in the area of safety, which is evolving with advances in science and the expectations of our fellow citizens. Third, this proposal allows us to maintain our status as world leaders in the nuclear sciences. Fourth, we are supporting our universities, our research centres and, notably, I want to emphasise this, the European Joint Research Centre, all of which are doing a remarkable job. Finally, it allows us to resolve a part of the cost of the ITER project, which is going to demonstrate the industrial feasibility of producing electricity by nuclear fusion. This will allow us to honour our international commitments to our partners in the ITER project – China, the United States, Russia, Japan and South Korea.

Well done, Commissioner, you have our support and thanks.

 
  
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  Silvia-Adriana Ţicău (S&D).(RO) Madam President, I welcome the proposal for a Council decision concerning the Framework Programme of the European Atomic Energy Community for nuclear research and training activities, and I congratulate the rapporteur Mr Březina. Given the potential cross-border impact of nuclear incidents, increasing nuclear safety and, if necessary, security aspects must be a priority. The overall objectives of the 2012-2013 Framework Programme focus in particular on nuclear safety, improving nuclear waste management, security and radiation protection, and help create the Innovation Union and build the European Research Area. Standardisation activities will be included in the project work programme.

I think that it is essential to maintain within the EU a high level of skills and proper working conditions in the nuclear sector. Particular attention must be paid to initiatives ancillary to core nuclear research, especially with regard to investment in human capital and suitable working conditions, and to actions aimed at addressing the risk of skills shortages in the coming years Member States must carry out a review of professional qualifications, training and skills in the nuclear sector within the EU, so as to give an overall picture of the current situation and enable appropriate solutions to be identified and implemented.

Furthermore, continued support is required in retaining and ensuring staff’s professional development, which is necessary to maintain the EU’s nuclear independence and a consistent level in terms of ensuring and improving nuclear safety. It is crucial to maintain the expertise in the EU for dealing with radiation protection and decommissioning nuclear facilities, as nuclear energy will play a key role in the EU’s energy mix, including decommissioning and long-term waste management activities Particular attention should be given to long-lived nuclear waste when decommissioning obsolete systems.

 
  
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  Oldřich Vlasák (ECR). - (CS) Madam President, first of all, please allow me to add my appreciation to the report of my colleague, Mr Březina. The extension of the Seventh Framework Programme for nuclear energy is a logical step. It concerns the ensuring of compatibility with the existing financial perspective valid until 2013. We all here know that the compromise proposal, which I personally support and which contains many improvements in the field of nuclear safety, was drawn up in the Council with great difficulty and at great length. I appreciate the many improvements regarding the simplification of the programme, including the reduction in the administrative burden. Austria and Luxembourg, which had long blocked the agreement, had some fundamental observations concerning in particular security aspects, and negotiations had reached stalemate. These Member States even considered the compromise proposal put forward by the Hungarian Presidency to be not responsive enough to their requirements. Now it is important, however, that the legislative proposal be passed as quickly as possible, but not later than the end of 2011, in order that the programme may continue in 2012. The European Parliament should therefore not complicate matters by pussyfooting around, bringing politics into a matter that should be left to the the experts, and should approve the text without emotion.

 
  
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  Maria Da Graça Carvalho (PPE).(PT) Madam President, Commissioner, I shall begin by congratulating the rapporteur, our colleague, Mr Březina.

The aim of the ITER project is to develop fusion energy. It will be a clean and sustainable form of energy, and will contribute to the fight against climate change, and to security of supply. ITER is the biggest international cooperation project led by Europe, involving research centres, universities and companies, and it is of the utmost importance for the development of scientific research in Europe.

Europe should therefore continue to support this project, but I would like to draw attention to several mistakes that have been made in the past, particularly in terms of management. There is a need to ensure careful and responsible management in the future. It is important to find solutions and means of funding that enable the continuation of the project. However, I am opposed to solutions that make use of the funding allocated to the Framework Programme for Research, as this puts the rest of the programme’s priorities at risk.

 
  
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  Vasilica Viorica Dăncilă (S&D).(RO) Madam President, I would first of all like to congratulate Mr Březina for this highly technical report, which is important to Europe, at a time when the future of nuclear energy is closely linked to the guarantees that we can give our citizens that this energy form is safe for all inhabitants, regardless of whether their country owns such power plants or not. I am saying this because, in the aftermath of the accident in Japan, security and nuclear safety are becoming even more of a priority, given the potential cross-border impact of possible nuclear incidents.

I also think that it is vital for the EU to focus particular attention on human capital initiatives because the young people who are going to take over need time to receive suitable specialist training. It is important to reassess the specialist professional qualification programmes, as well as training and skills in the nuclear sector in the EU. We must avoid skills shortages, regardless of whether we are talking about industrial nuclear facilities or about medical facilities which are no less important to Europe’s citizens and especially to their health.

Another important aspect in this area is the professional experience of those at the end of their career, who can pass on the knowledge they have acquired during years of working. Last but not least, it is important for us to find the most suitable solutions for managing long-lived radioactive waste as safely as possible. This is an area where research has a vital role to play, which is why the EU must provide the necessary funding.

 
  
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  Alajos Mészáros (PPE).(HU) Madam President, first of all please allow me to congratulate Mr Březina for the excellent job he has done. Thank you very much. In the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster the European Union needs increased nuclear research and development. I am saying this despite the fact that some Member States have decided to partially abolish nuclear energy. Central European countries, such as Slovakia, are highly dependent on nuclear energy. 30% of the electricity demand of the EU, and 50% of that of Slovakia is covered by this resource. With appropriate coordination and knowledge sharing we could demonstrate the safety of nuclear fission, which would not only improve the competitiveness of Europe, but would stimulate research in other areas as well. The cofinanced research put forward by Euratom greatly facilitates fission-based energy production.

There is also a clear link between the proposals for a framework programme and the objectives of the Europe 2020 and Energy 2020 strategies, which contribute to job creation in several areas. The framework programme not only aims at training new experts, but also enhances the competitiveness of the existing nuclear industry, especially in the field of fusion energy. The construction of the ITER is an immense challenge, and not just from a financial, but also from a technical standpoint. We must do everything in our power to ensure success. This includes ensuring that the currently emerging financing difficulties are resolved as soon as possible. As we all know, the budget has exceeded the original estimates. We need reliable and secure sources until the end of the project life cycle, because fusion energy could provide a sustainable solution for the energy problems of both Europe and the world.

 
  
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  Romana Jordan Cizelj (PPE). - (SL) Madam President, nuclear energy is an important low-carbon resource but it also offers cost and import stability. Although not all Member States use it, we cannot give up research at a European level, simply because this form of energy is too important.

Special mention should be given to areas of research such as the sustainable and efficient use of resources (particularly for fourth generation reactors), processing of nuclear fuel, nuclear safety, nuclear waste disposal and the decommissioning of power plants.

A particularly important area is the provision of personnel, because this form of energy has long been neglected and as such, does not hold any distinct prospects for young people. With regard to Project ITER: I think that we must ensure long-term, stable financing.

I have one final point to make: in the Seventh Framework Programme, the results of the study on the disbursement of funds from this programme were very interesting and it would also be very good to have information on how funds are spent in the Euratom programme.

 
  
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  Elena Băsescu (PPE).(RO) Madam President, nuclear energy will play a strategic role in Europe’s energy mix for at least another 50 years. In light of this, it is vital to create a new state-of-the-art technological sector in the field of fusion energy. Europe needs safe, sustainable, green and viable energy. At the same time, the safety and efficiency of using nuclear resources must be increased. Providing long-term waste management solutions is of paramount importance.

The European Union must allocate sufficient funds to achieve these objectives. In Romania the largest low-temperature laboratory in Europe is going to be created for specific technical applications. Financed using European funds, the laboratory in Râmnicu Vâlcea will help create the first nuclear fusion reactor at Cadarache.

 
  
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  Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Member of the Commission. Madam President, I am encouraged by the debate that has unfolded here this evening.

Nuclear energy, as many people mentioned, is always a source of political debate, but we must not forget that the proposal we are discussing today is for funding research to enhance the future of nuclear safety in Europe, to improve the management of nuclear waste, also mentioned by a lot of Members, to make progress in the whole area of radiation protection, and to create the human capital needed by the nuclear sector.

I think it is vital that the importance of these research areas for the European Union in general goes beyond specific political choices.

The Commission thanks Parliament for issuing this important report and for the clear support that it gives to Euratom-funded research. I can guarantee that very many elements contained in the report will be taken into account during the implementation of the Framework Programme over the next two years and we hope we will have the opportunity to explain this to the institution.

We pay very close attention, as you know, to the opinion of this arm of the budgetary authority.

As I said before, it is absolutely urgent that the decision is taken as soon as possible. As long as the decision is not taken, the Framework Programme cannot be adopted.

Last but not least, let me thank you for the strong support that you give to the Commission’s proposal on the specific programme for the direct actions of the Joint Research Centre in this area.

The Commission will continue to strengthen the role of the JRC to provide in-house expertise in support of the Union’s policies in the areas of nuclear safety and security, environmental protection and decommissioning.

 
  
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  Jan Březina, rapporteur. (CS) Madam President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, let me thank you once again for what you have brought to this topic. Whenever you referred to any of the elements of this very wide field of research, it was always constructive, or whether it concerned the inclusion of nuclear research which is implemented by means of the European Sustainable Nuclear Industrial Initiative (ESNII) or the European Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-plan) in the 2020 strategy, or whether you emphasised the urgency of addressing budgetary matters in relation to the Joint European Torus (JET) project, and to the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) programme, or whether you emphasised training and the necessity for the education of technicians or the advantages of the Generation IV nuclear reactors, it was all positive. Thank you very much for these comments, but allow me to add one general comment. This debate was initiated by the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, and actually should not have taken place because originally this report, or indeed these four reports, was supposed to have been discussed without debate. I have addressed the proposed amendments made by this group throughout and this was not a problem for me, as I respect my colleagues' different political views. However, the fact that somebody calls a debate and then not a single member of that group participates in that debate, smacks to me of a certain contempt of democratic principles. I felt a sort of inner need to say this.

 
  
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  President. − The debate is closed.

The vote will take place tomorrow (Thursday, 17 November 2011).

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Edit Herczog (S&D), in writing.(HU) With the Euratom dossier at hand our aim is to complement miscellaneous research policy actions of the EU required for the implementation of the Europe 2020 strategy, in particular actions relating to education, training and employment, competitiveness, innovation and environmental protection, with a view to simplifying them.

1. Education, training and employment

First of all, increased attention and budget spending are needed for initiatives ancillary to core nuclear research, in particular as regards investment in human capital and actions aimed at addressing the risk of skills shortages in the coming years (for example grants to researchers in the nuclear field).

2. Competitiveness, innovation and environmental protection

Secondly, the framework programme should contribute to achieving the Innovation Union, which is one of the flagship initiatives of the Europe 2020 strategy. It should reinforce competition with a view to scientific excellence in order to accelerate the implementation of key innovations in the field of nuclear energy, while also playing a part in meeting the challenges of the energy sector and climate change. The implementation of ITER in Europe will expand new research infrastructures that have a significant European dimension, and in connection with the European complementary programme it will result in the creation of a new research infrastructure to support ITER experiments.

3. Simplification

Thirdly, the implementation of the Framework Programme (2012–2013) should be based on the principles of simplicity, stability, transparency, legal certainty, consistency, excellence and trust following the recommendations of the European Parliament in its Report on simplifying the implementation of the Research Framework Programmes.

 
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