HC Deb 08 December 1999 vol 340 cc539-40W
Mr. Wigley

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the policy of Her Majesty's Government on the decommissioning of Soviet-designed nuclear reactors in the countries of eastern Europe as part of the negotiations relating to those countries' applications for membership of the European Union. [101890]

Mr. Hain

We strongly support G7 and EU efforts to improve nuclear safety in Central and Eastern Europe. The EU accession process provides an important opportunity to achieve early closure of reactors which cannot be upgraded to international safety standards. At the (EU) Vienna European Council in December 1998 the EU agreed to use the accession process as a lever to encourage nuclear safety and, in particular, the early closure of the oldest Soviet design reactors which safety experts assess cannot be upgraded to international standards. We fully support the Commission's efforts to persuade the applicant countries concerned—Bulgaria, Lithuania and Slovakia—to put in place credible closure plans for the relevant reactors.

We welcome the recent announcements by the Bulgarian, Lithuanian, and Slovak authorities and the commitments they contain on closure timetables for the non-upgradable reactors at respectively, the Kozloduy, Ignalina and Bohunice nuclear power plants.

We strongly support invitations for these three countries (as well as Latvia, Malta, and Romania) to open accession negotiations. We expect the Helsinki European Council on 10–11 December to decide to extend invitations to all six. Once negotiations begin, progress on nuclear safety objectives will continue to be part of the accession process as it is now.

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