The Fukushima disaster has raised concerns about the risks and catastrophic potential entailed by civil nuclear activities. Nuclear electric generation, regardless of the opinion that one may have on its place in the energy mix, is a technology that requires a very high level of safety through extremely demanding conditions (financial, technical, social, political and legal).
These conditions can only exist if the civil society is really able to take part into the governance of nuclear activities. The vigilance of the civil society is not only requested at local and national levels but also at the European level where regulators, operator and experts cooperate more and more.
NTW offers counter-expertise essential for safety issues as well as for the protection of the environment. It deals with all the activities of the nuclear cycle: outsourcing, plant lifetime extension, nuclear emergency preparedness and response, safety costs, nuclear waste management… Its first working group is dealing with emergency preparedness and response. A report will be published at the end of 2014 after the organization of roundtables all over Europe with local key actors. A new NTW’s cluster will be created soon to tackle the issue of nuclear waste. Finally, a new line of work on the ageing of nuclear power plants and lifetime extension is under investigation.
The European Network Nuclear Transparency Watch has been launched in 2013 after a call from Members of the European Parliament from different political parties for “a watch about nuclear transparency”, following the disaster of Fukushima. On November 7th, 2013, the network was offcially created with the election of a management board and of the Chair Michèle Rivasi, Member of the European Parliament (The Greens/EFA).
This matched a parallel process engaged in France since 2008, called Aarhus Convention and Nuclear (ACN), and led by the French ANCCLI (National Federation of Local Information Committees) with support of the European Commission. Its aim was to ask for the respect of the Aarhus convention on access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in nuclear matters.
Nowadays, all civil society organizations and actors that have been part of the ACN process are members of NTW, which also gathers organizations from outside the European Union (Ukraine for example).
NTW’s activities are also based on the Espoo Convention that sets out the obligations of Parties to assess the environmental impact of certain activities at an early stage of planning.