Switzerland is lobbying to introduce stricter safety provisions for nuclear power plants throughout the world

At the beginning of February 2015, the international community will discuss a Swiss amendment proposal to improve the Convention on Nuclear Safety (CNS): its aim is to enhance the safety of nuclear power plants throughout the world. The Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (ENSI) is currently working in close cooperation with the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) and the Swiss Federal Department of Energy (SFOE) to persuade Contracting Parties to amend the CNS.

Ausserordentliche Konferenz zur Convention on Nuclear Safety CNS

At the sixth CNS Review Meeting in April 2014, a majority of the Contracting Parties took a basically positive stance on Switzerland’s proposed amendments; they also agreed to convene a Diplomatic Conference to discuss the Swiss amendment proposal. The Diplomatic Conference will take place from 9 to 13 February 2015 in Vienna.

ENSI Director General Hans Wanner comments: “We still have a great deal of lobbying to do before that date”. The recently concluded General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna was therefore used to hold bilateral consultations with Contracting Parties of the Convention.

None of the Contracting Parties openly questions the content of the Swiss proposal, but some still have reservations. The Diplomatic Conference in February 2015 offers an opportunity to find a wording for the text that will suit as many Contracting Parties as possible. Underscoring the importance of the Swiss initiative, Hans Wanner adds: “If the CNS is amended in line with our proposal, the prospects are good for further improvements to the safety of nuclear power plants worldwide”.

Objectives of the amendments

Switzerland’s proposal calls for new nuclear power plants to be built according to the latest safety standards and technologies. The safety of existing nuclear power plants should be in line with these standards and a binding backfitting obligation should be introduced at the international level.

The proposal also states that no further construction of second-generation plants should be allowed. Enhanced nuclear safety for existing facilities should be guaranteed by periodic safety reviews and safety analyses based on the latest technological developments, and by implementing technical improvements and backfitting projects.

As regards the planning and construction of new facilities, structural measures should ensure that the likelihood of accidents is reduced and safety margins are increased. If accidents occur, preventing core melt-down and avoiding discharges of large quantities of radioactivity are the top priorities.

In Switzerland, the Nuclear Energy Act (NEA) already stipulates mandatory backfitting for existing facilities. Due to the recently adopted EU Nuclear Safety Directive, a similar obligation is also to be implemented in all EU countries.

Since the end of the Review Meeting, ENSI and the FDFA have been making joint efforts to ensure that the Diplomatic Conference will be a success. For this purpose, it is important that as many Contracting Parties as possible can take part in the preparations.

Switzerland therefore initiated an informal working group to prepare for the Diplomatic Conference. The working group is discussing the logistical and administrative conditions for the Conference and the content of the Swiss proposal. The objective is to create clarity regarding the process and the content of the proposal to increase the chances of a successful outcome for the Diplomatic Conference.