On 9 February 2015, a diplomatic conference on the Convention on Nuclear Safety (CNS) was held in Vienna. An important outcome of this conference was the adoption of the Vienna Declaration on Nuclear Safety.
It contained the following political commitments:
- New nuclear power plants are to be constructed so that no long-term protective measures in terms of external emergency response are required in the event of an accident.
- To the extent possible, existing installations are to be improved to meet the technical principles for new installations.
- The parties have committed to reporting regularly on the implementation of these goals.
Although the contracting parties (77 at the time) ultimately could not agree to anchoring the provisions in the text of the Convention during negotiations, the Vienna Declaration is a step in the right direction. It is a further signal from the international community to improve the safety of nuclear power plants after the reactor accidents in Fukushima.
At the conference, safety objectives already adopted for the European Union in Directive 2014/87/Euratom in July 2014 were incorporated into the Vienna Declaration, thereby securing their global validity in the context of the Convention on Nuclear Safety.
The fact that the European Union member states were united on the issue contributed significantly to the success of the diplomatic conference. The Vienna Declaration requires contracting parties to report on the establishment and implementation of the technical principles in national regulations in the respective review meetings.
The convening of the diplomatic conference was decided in April 2014 at the Sixth Review Meeting on the Convention on Nuclear Safety after Switzerland had submitted a proposal to amend the Convention. The exact formulation of the security objectives was to be negotiated at the 2015 diplomatic conference, in preparation for which an informal working group was established, which met eight times between June 2014 and February 2015.
Germany was actively involved in the work, pushing in Vienna to ensure that the right lessons be learned from the reactor accident in Fukushima and that the Convention on Nuclear Safety be used effectively as a tool to improve nuclear safety worldwide. The Vienna Declaration on these security goals has achieved this. It aims at a dynamic further development of the security requirements, as are already being applied in Germany. Nuclear power plants could now be retrofitted in many countries in accordance with the Declaration's intentions. Whether this actually happens, is the sovereign decision of the respective state party.
The Vienna Declaration requires for the first time that contracting parties report on the establishment and implementation of these in national regulations.