Since its introduction, nuclear power has always been a highly controversial energy source. Nuclear Transparency Watch is convinced that only a high level of transparency and broad public participation in nuclear decision making can secure that the risks of this sector remain acceptable. Nuclear electricity 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 that can only be secured by constant intensive public scrutiny: technical, financial, social, political and legal.
In this societal oversight, civil society plays a pivotal role, and needs to be able to take part in the governance of nuclear activities on all levels. The vigilance of and interaction with civil society is not only requested at local and national levels but also at the European level where regulators, operators and experts already cooperate intensively. Nuclear transparency is widely seen as essential, but in reality a vulnerable part of decision processes concerning nuclear issues.
In the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear accident and the following European post-Fukushima nuclear stress tests, Nuclear Transparency Watch was set up to assist civil society as the eyes, ears and mouthpiece in the European quarters of Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg. It builds upon many initiatives active around nuclear developments, that try to implement the principles of the Aarhus Convention on access to information, public participation and access to justice concerning environmental issues.
NTW offers counter-expertise that is essential for safety issues as well as for the protection of the environment. It deals with all the activities of the nuclear chain: outsourcing, plant lifetime extension, new nuclear construction, nuclear emergency preparedness and response, safety costs, nuclear waste management, and more. Its working groups deal with emergency preparedness and response, radioactive waste, and ageing nuclear reactors. NTW organises round tables, brings together specialists, authorities and lay-people, reports civil society concerns on European and national level.
The European network Nuclear Transparency Watch was launched in 2013 after a call from different political groups from the European Parliament for “a watch on nuclear transparency”, following the nuclear disaster at Fukushima. On 7 November 2013, the network was officially created with the election of a management board and its first chair Michèle Rivasi, Member of the European Parliament (Greens/EFA). Members include NGOs, academics, consultants, national and European parliamentarians, civil society experts and active citizens.
The origin of this call lays in cooperation between experts and civil society organisations (NGOs) in the early European Nuclear Energy Forums, resulting in 2008 in a parallel process under the flag Aarhus Convention and Nuclear (ACN), initiated in France and led by the French ANCCLI (National Federation of Local Information Committees) with support from the European Commission.
Many of the civil society organisations and experts that are currently member of NTW were already active in the ACN process. Members come from all over Europe, including countries outside the European Union.
NTW’s activities keep a watch over the implementation of the Aarhus Convention and Espoo Convention (obliging European countries to carry out environmental assessments with public participation also for nuclear activities), of EU- and Euratom policies in the nuclear field, and facilitate civil society participation in nuclear policy development.