A meeting of the parties to the UN convention on environmental impact assessment in a transboundary context (Espoo) took place last week in Minsk, Belarus.
Among other things, it helped to showcase the influence that politics and the nuclear industry lobby have over decisions that have potentially severe impacts on European citizens’ health and the environment.
The meeting – gathering over 200 people, including government delegates, civil society, EU officials and business – ended in an unprecedented way, without the endorsement of any decision, despite worrying evidence of the non-compliance of several governments’ nuclear energy plans.
With many more decisions coming up in Europe on either the construction of plants, or the prolongation of old nuclear units, the lack of a decision following the Espoo meeting leaves no legal precedent for countries to follow.
It included Hinkley Point C in the UK, the Astravetz nuclear power plant project in Belarus, as well as cases of lifetime extension of ageing nuclear power stations in Ukraine.
For the past year, all three cases have been at the centre of demands, from neighbouring governments and civil society, for accountability and participation in decision-making.
These demands have been rooted in the very poor public participation processes, which have left little space for governments and citizens to engage in decisions that will shape the future of nuclear energy in Europe.
The findings on these cases include clear statements about the present situation.
For instance, the UK failed to notify all parties potentially affected by the Hinkley Point C power plant in a timely manner.
Ukraine failed to involve its neighbours in consultations regarding the lifetime extension of its reactors, and Belarus was non-compliant by failing to notify its neighbours before selecting the location of its future nuclear power plant, just 45 kilometres from Vilnius in Lithuania.