The European Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan) aims to transform the way we produce and use energy in the EU with the goal of achieving EU leadership in the development of technological solutions capable of delivering 2020 and 2050 energy and climate targets.
Nuclear power is set to make an ongoing contribution to the decarbonisation of the European energy system and achieving the ultimate goal of reducing Europe’s dependency on fossil fuels. The following is a chronological overview of some of the actions taken to advance nuclear fission research across the EU, in addition to a more general look at recent actions in support of the SET-Plan.
- The treaty setting up a European Atomic Energy Community, better known as Euratom, was signed in Rome in March 1957, and entered into force on January 1, 1958. The general objective of the Treaty is to contribute to the formation and development of Europe's nuclear industries and to ensure security and high safety standards and prevent nuclear materials from being diverted to military use.
- The Euratom Supply Agency was established under the Euratom Treaty and became operational on 1 June 1960. Its mission is to ensure that all users in the EU enjoy regular and equitable access to ores and nuclear fuels.
- Accelerated by the oil crises in the 1970s several European countries built their fleet of nuclear power plants. Many research centres had a clear focus on nuclear energy. Euratom R&D was largely performed by the Joint Research Centre.
- In 1992 the European Network for Inspection and Qualification (ENIQ) dealing with the reliability and effectiveness of non-destructive testing (NDT) for nuclear plants was established. ENIQ is driven by European nuclear utilities and is working mainly in the areas of qualification of NDT systems and risk-informed in-service inspection (RI-ISI). In 2012 ENIQ became part of the international association for R&D on Gen II & III reactors NUGENIA.
- The Severe Accident Research Network of Excellence (SARNET) was launched in April 2004 to improve knowledge on severe accidents in order to enhance nuclear plant safety. SARNET coordinates research and expertise, preserves research data and disseminates knowledge on severe accidents. The follow-up project SARNET2 with the same scope, objectives and contributors ran from 2009 until 2013. SARNET is one of the eight technical areas of NUGENIA.
Nuclear Fission under the SET-Plan
- In 2006 the Network for nuclear plant life prediction NULIFE was established as an FP6 project. Its aim was to establish a permanent organisational framework for joint harmonised R&D at European level on nuclear plant life management. The activities of NULIFE evolved into NUGENIA.
- In January 2007, the European Commission published the Communication An Energy Policy for Europe in which it underlined the benefits of nuclear energy: low-carbon emissions, competitiveness, and stable prices.
- In a Decision from July 2007, the European Commission set up the European High Level Group on Nuclear Safety and Waste Management, later renamed the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG). The aim of the group is to improve cooperation between Member States on nuclear safety and radioactive waste, improve transparency and advise the European Commission on the safety of nuclear installations and the safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste.
- The Sustainable Nuclear Energy Technology Platform (SNETP) was officially launched in September 2007 to promote research, development and demonstration of the nuclear fission technologies necessary to achieve SET-Plan goals.
- The EUROPAIRS project was launched in September 2007 under the 7th Euratom Framework Programme. The project defined the boundary operational conditions for nuclear cogeneration and established a technical roadmap for the timely development and demonstration of high temperature reactors (HTR). EUROPAIRS ended in May 2011 with a clear vision of the potential and the feasibility of nuclear cogeneration and a precise and consistent roadmap for HTR systems. The preparation of technology demonstration is pursued in the project NC2I-R.
- An ERA-NET for nuclear physics infrastructures (NuPNET) was launched in March 2008 and funded under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) to provide Europe with more coherent funding of its nuclear physics infrastructures and equipment. The project aimed to ensure exchange of information, the definition of joint activities and the launch of these activities through concrete pilot actions.
- SNETP published its Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA) in May 2009 to address the key issues of fission technologies as identified in the SET-Plan. This was updated in 2013 to reflect the R&D priorities resulting from lessons learned from the Fukushima accident.
- The European Commission published its Nuclear Safety Directive in June 2009 to establish a Community framework for the nuclear safety of nuclear installations. In order to keep nuclear installations safe and enhance European leadership on nuclear safety worldwide the EU amended this Directive on 8 July 2014 based on lessons learned.
- The European Sustainable Nuclear Industrial Initiative (ESNII) was launched at the SET-Plan conference in Brussels in November 2010 to address the need for demonstration of Gen-IV Fast Neutron Reactor technologies, together with the supporting research infrastructures, fuel facilities and R&D work.
- The European Energy Research Alliance Joint Programme for Nuclear Materials (JPNM) was launched in November 2010. The overall objective of this Joint Programme is to converge towards truly integrated research activities at European level based on the joint identification of key priority materials research topics, in support of the development and optimisation of sustainable nuclear energy systems.
- The Nuclear Generation II & III Association NUGENIA was established in November 2011 to advance the safe, reliable and efficient operation of light water reactors by initiating and supporting international R&D projects and programmes.
- Following preparatory work in 2010, the Nuclear Cogeneration Industrial Initiative (NC2I) taskforce was launched in 2011 as one of the three pillars of SNETP, along with NUGENIA and ESNII. The aim of the initiative is to develop an innovative and competitive energy solution for the low-carbon cogeneration of heat and electricity based on nuclear energy.
- The European Council issued Directive 2011/70/EURATOM on 19 July 2011, establishing a Community framework for the responsible and safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste. The Directive aims to ensure that Member States provide appropriate national arrangements to guarantee a high level of safety in spent fuel and radioactive waste management, in order to protect workers and the general public against the dangers from ionising radiation. Member States have to submit the first report on the implementation of their national programmes in 2015.
- In 2014, Joint Research Centre scientists developed and published, in collaboration with the UK National Physical Laboratory, an uncertainty propagation formula to be used for age dating in support of nuclear forensics. In their report, scientists from the JRC-Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements (IRMM) demonstrated that there is a need for better half-life data, more traceability in establishing uncertainties and more harmonisation in the selection of reference data among scientific communities. This research was presented at a conference organised by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in July 2014.
- In August 2014, the Joint Research Centre published a new thematic report Science for Nuclear Safety and Security describing relevant scientific output in nuclear safety; nuclear security; reference measurements; materials and standards; nuclear knowledge management; training and education; and innovation.
- In September 2014, a new report on "Long-term nuclear spent-fuel management" was issued by the JRC and the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC) that analyses options for spent nuclear fuel management and their state of development. The report calls for a flexible adoption strategy, more targeted funding and the need for deep geological repositories.
SET-Plan Integrated Roadmap
Courtesy of CEZ
The Integrated Roadmap together with the Action Plan are key actions of the European Commission’s Communication on Energy Technologies and Innovation, COM(2013)253. The aim of the Integrated Roadmap, in the current context of the EU's energy policy developments, is to consolidate the updated technology roadmaps of the SET Plan and propose research and innovation actions designed to facilitate integration along four axes: the innovation chain, covering from basic research to demonstration and support for market roll-out; the value chain, according to the industrial capacities and innovation potential of the various supply chains; the EU dimension, achieving replication of solutions in different climate and geographic contexts across Europe; and the energy system, fulfilling the societal needs in a competitive, secure, efficient, and sustainable way.
The process for the development of the Integrated Roadmap is co-led by DG ENER, DG RTD and JRC. It involved more than 150 stakeholders, who under the guidance of the SET-Plan Steering Group have provided inputs to the Commission. Eight meetings were organized in Brussels, between September 2013 and February 2014, with the Coordination Group and its Working Group for proposing and drafting the research and innovation actions in areas such as energy efficiency, competitive, efficient, secure, sustainable and flexible energy systems, fostering innovation in real environments and through a market-driven framework, along with cross-cutting issues.
Their contributions address a set of integration energy system challenges, under Themes identified by the SET-Plan Steering Group (EC and MSs), to meet the three overarching energy policy objectives: security of supply, competitiveness and sustainability. They are in line with the various scenarios for the evolution of the European energy system in the medium and long term (2050) and in national roadmaps.
The consolidated inputs by the stakeholders were submitted to the MSs for feedback and discussed during the latest Steering Group meeting organized in Brussels, on 14 October 2014. An Action Plan will be developed together with the Member States for the joint implementation of the Integrated Roadmap.
As noted previously the drafting of the Integrated Roadmap is steered by the European Commission. JRC/SETIS is, in particular, in charge of its operational and scientific management.
The Integrated Roadmap will be a main focus of the 7th SET-Plan Conference that will take place in Rome on 10-11 December 2014.
General SET-Plan news
- The 7th Conference of the European Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan), organized by the Italian National Agency for New Technologies (ENEA) under the auspices of the Italian Presidency of the Council of the EU, will be held at the Auditorium Antonianum in Rome on 10-11 December 2014. The Conference will represent a unique forum for experts, researchers, producers, stakeholders and representatives of national and EU institutions to have in-depth discussions on the future developments of the SET-Plan needed to respond to the energy challenges ahead.
- The European Commission has launched a new activity within the Smart Specialisation Platform (S3P) to support regions and countries that joined the EU since 2004 to develop and exploit the synergies between Horizon 2020 (H2020) and European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF). The project, entitled ‘Synergies between Cohesion Policy and R&I funds: the Stairway to Excellence (S2E)’ will be officially launched at a conference in Prague on 2-3 October 2014.
- Together with DG ENER, the JRC has recently published the first report measuring the progress of smart meters deployment across the EU against the 80% target by 2020. In the report ‘Benchmarking smart metering deployment in the EU-27 with a focus on electricity’, the JRC provided a detailed analysis of each country's roll-out plans, complementing it with cross-country metrics and indicators. The report also highlights best practices and lessons learned from EU Member States that have already completed their smart metering roll-out.
- JRC scientists recently developed and validated a method that may serve as a reference for the quality assessment of certain biodiesel properties. The new method could be further used in the production of biodiesel reference materials ensuring a reliable quality assessment of biodiesel.
- Following the publication of the SET-Plan Roadmap on Education and Training earlier in the year, an accompanying document containing assessments and contributions from expert working groups has also been made available. This document provides background information supporting the recommendations put forward in the Roadmap, which in turn addresses the human resource challenge for energy research and innovation and constitutes an integral part of the SET-Plan agenda.