In the interest of its strategic objective, ESA pursues the following core activities:
- managing contracts related to the supply of nuclear materials and/or services in the nuclear fuel cycle, in line with the applicable provisions, for power and non-power uses;
- promoting diversification of sources of supply in the nuclear fuel cycle, as a contribution to security of supply in the medium and long term;
- observing developments in the nuclear fuel market and in relevant R&D fields;
- monitoring (and contributing to) the secure supply of medical radioisotopes;
- publishing its Annual Report and providing information including on the European and global nuclear markets;
- reaching out to stakeholders.
The Supply Agency’s activities in this field encompass:
- concluding nuclear materials and fuel supply contracts, pursuant to Article 52 of the Euratom Treaty;
- acknowledging notifications of contracts for small quantities of nuclear materials, pursuant to Article 74 of the Euratom Treaty ();
- acknowledging notifications of transactions related to the provision of services in the nuclear fuel cycle, pursuant to Article 75 of the Euratom Treaty.
Nuclear materials coming from inside the Community may be exported only with the authorisation of the Commission.
In 2019, in its Article 52 activities, ESA assigned 178 new registration references corresponding to new contracts and amendments or supplements to existing contracts.
In the same year, in its activities under Articles 75 and 74 of the Treaty, ESA assigned 139 new registration references covering transactions related to the provision of services or the supply of small quantities of nuclear materials.
Due to the UK withdrawal from the EU and Euratom, ESA assessed all the supply contracts in connection with the UK that it had concluded, and, in agreement with the Commission and the chief negotiator’s services, decided to give effect to its signature anew. It also sought Commission decisions confirming authorisations previously granted by the Commission for a number of contracts where such authorisations were required. The EU commercial contracting parties were informed individually of the outcome of the assessment and of the decisions taken. ESA also informed such parties that exceptions provided for in Article 75 would continue to apply in so far as they are unaffected by the UK Withdrawal Agreement.
In line with its strategic objective and the European Commission’s policies, the Supply Agency strives for diversification of sources of supply in the nuclear fuel cycle for power and non-power uses.
Diversification of supply sources – which also contributes to the viability of the domestic nuclear industry – is an important means for security of supply in the medium and long term and, as such, is strongly acknowledged by the European Energy Security Strategy ().
Security of energy supply
ESA monitors the situation of EU producers which export nuclear material produced in the EU, as it has option rights over such material under Article 52 of the Euratom Treaty. Where the material is exported from the EU, ESA may require the contracting parties to accept certain conditions relating to the security of supply on the EU market.
The Supply Agency has recommended that Community utilities operating nuclear power plants maintain adequate stocks of nuclear materials, cover their future requirements by entering into multiannual contracts and or diversify their sources of supply. Diversification should cover all stages of the fuel cycle.
In 2019, to prevent excessive dependence of Community users on any single external supplier, ESA continued to follow attentively, and encouraged efforts to diversify the supply of nuclear fuel for reactors for which appropriate alternative offers were not available.
In collaboration with Slovenské Elektrárne, ESA held a forum to review the conditions for possible fuel-supply diversification for VVER-440 reactors. The participating utilities and fuel fabricators explored the performance and technical characteristics of their alternative design, and economic feasibility.
ESA continued to follow up on the steps towards supply diversification of fuel for VVER-1000 reactors in Czechia and Bulgaria, as well as the medium/long-term plans of major EU fuel manufacturers in this respect.
Supply of nuclear materials for non-power uses
In line with its strategic objective, ESA continued to scrutinise security of supply of high-enriched uranium (HEU) and high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU), required to feed the production of medical radioisotopes and to fuel research reactors. These strategic materials are currently not produced in the Community and have to be imported from the US or the Russian Federation.
In close cooperation with the Member States concerned, ESA continued to facilitate the supply of HEU to users who still need it until their conversion to HALEU, in line with international nuclear security commitments. In 2019, in cooperation with the US and the Euratom Member States concerned, ESA reviewed progress in implementing the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed with the US Department of Energy-National Nuclear Security Administration (DoE-NNSA) in 2014 on the exchange of HEU needed to supply European research reactors and medical radioisotope production facilities. The review covered EU quantities delivered by the US and those still required by Euratom Member States, as well as HEU quantities to be shipped and transferred to the US for downblending. The overall balance has been maintained, as envisaged by the MoU, and a significant portion of the materials identified has already been shipped to the US.
In November 2019, ESA and representatives of Member State authorities, industry and users held exploratory discussions on the subject of future HALEU supply with the US delegation led by the DoE-NNSA.
In the interest of its Treaty missions, the Supply Agency’s statutes entrust it with a market observatory role. In particular, ESA has a duty to monitor the market in order to identify trends likely to affect the Union’s security of supply of nuclear materials and services. ESA has to provide the Community with expertise, information and advice on any subject connected with the operation of the nuclear market.
In 2019, in line with these obligations, ESA’s Nuclear Fuel Market Observatory issued several market reports and analyses, published price indices and cooperated with other international market analysis organisations.
ESA’s Annual Report continues to be its main reporting tool. As in previous years, ESA conducted a survey among EU nuclear power operators. The survey provided detailed analysis of the supply and demand for natural uranium, conversion and enrichment services in the EU. The Supply Agency published three price indices with calculated weighted averages of the prices paid by EU utilities within multiannual and spot contracts. Its analysis contained forecasts of future demand for uranium and enrichment services and assessed security of supply of nuclear fuel to EU utilities. ESA provided detailed analysis of future contractual coverage for natural uranium and enrichment services, diversification of supply and an analysis of EU inventories of nuclear material.
In 2019, ESA issued four quarterly uranium market reports (), which reflect global and specific Euratom developments on the nuclear market. They include general data about natural uranium supply contracts concluded by ESA or notified to it, a description of activity on the natural uranium market in the EU, and the quarterly spot price index for natural uranium whenever three or more spot contracts have been concluded.
To create greater transparency in the EU natural uranium market, reduce uncertainty and help improve security of supply, ESA regularly publishes price trends () and reports on its website. ESA also issues a weekly nuclear news brief for readers within the European Commission.
The ESA Nuclear Fuel Market Observatory helped assess the draft national energy and climate plans (NECP) prepared by Member States for 2021-2030. NECPs that are introduced under the Regulation on the governance of the energy union and climate action (EU/2018/1999) identify ways of achieving the EU’s energy and climate targets for 2030. ESA addressed issues related to security of supply and diversification policies included in the NECPs and gave recommendations.
In 2019, the ESA Nuclear Fuel Market Observatory continued its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) by participating in working groups: the joint NEA/IAEA Uranium Group and the NEA Expert Group on Uranium Mining and Economic Development.
The NEA/IAEA Uranium Group is responsible for publishing the biannual report ‘Uranium resources, production and demand’, to which ESA contributes its analysis of EU supply and demand for nuclear fuel
ESA presented the European perspective on security of supply at the World Nuclear Fuel Cycle conference, co-organised by the World Nuclear Association (WNA) and the Nuclear Energy Institute, and contributed in the ensuing panel discussion.
In the light of the Council Conclusions ‘Towards the secure supply of radioisotopes for medical use in the EU’ dated 2010 () and 2012 (), ESA’s market observatory role was widened in 2013 to cover aspects of the supply of medical radioisotopes in the EU.
In 2019, ESA continued to coordinate activities to improve the security of supply of Mo-99/Tc-99m and to chair, jointly with the industry association of nuclear medicine (NMEu) (), the European Observatory on the Supply of Medical Radioisotopes (). In the Council Conclusions on ‘Non-power nuclear and radiological technologies and applications’ () adopted in June 2019, the Council further supported “the continuing monitoring of the production chain of medical radioisotopes through the European Observatory on the Supply of Medical Radioisotopes and the ESA’s efforts and actions in ensuring the secure supply of source material”.
The Observatory aims to assess, monitor and support the EU supply of widely used medical radioisotopes with the focus on Molybdenum-99/Technetium-99m (Mo-99/Tc-99m). The Observatory is composed of representatives of the European Commission services, international organisations and various industry stakeholders, most of which are grouped within the NMEu. In 2019, the Observatory held two plenary meetings, in March and in September.
At the March meeting in Luxembourg, the Observatory focused on issues affecting the medical radioisotope supply chain following the withdrawal of the UK from the EU/Euratom, which could potentially lead to supply disruptions, impacting effective healthcare provision in the EU-27 and the UK. The meeting participants also addressed the possible inclusion of other novel medical radioisotopes, e.g. Lutetium-177 (Lu-177), in the scope of the Observatory. In addition, updates were provided from the NMEu, OECD/NEA and European Association of Nuclear Medicine (EANM), and on the status of the European Commission projects connected with the supply of medical radioisotopes.
At the September meeting in Amsterdam, the Observatory further discussed the impact of Brexit, preparation and possible mitigation actions to be put in place in the event of potential disruption in the supply of medical radioisotopes. The Group also looked at the future options for producing Mo-99/Tc-99m in the EU, discussing the new infrastructure projects in the EU – JHR (), Pallas (), Myrrha () and SMART (). Schedules of global research reactors, Mo-99 supply monitoring and future supply of HALEU were other topics dealt with at the meeting. Curium and NRG organised a technical visit to their facilities in Petten.
In 2019, ESA was also actively involved in designing the Strategic Agenda for Medical, Industrial and Research Applications of Nuclear and Radiation Technology (‘SAMIRA’, see Section 3.3.2), by participating in the dedicated Task Force and by contributing to the development of an action plan. It also played a large part in the preparation of the workshop in February 2019 that aimed to investigate the challenges and opportunities in the area, providing expertise on medical radioisotopes.
ESA’s 2018 Annual Report gave an overview of its own activities and developments in the EU and world nuclear fuel markets and nuclear energy during the year. It set out ESA’s findings and recommendations on the supply and demand of nuclear fuels, reflecting ESA’s diversification policy and security of supply. It also discussed issues relating to the security of supply of medical radioisotopes. ESA’s work programme for the following year was part of the report.
The ESA 2018 Annual Report, was published in June 2019, and is available on ESA’s website (). The report was sent to the European Commission, the Council of the EU and the European Parliament in August 2019.
Throughout 2019, ESA pursued contacts with the EU and international authorities, utilities, industry and nuclear organisations to further its objectives, engaging in continuous dialogue with suppliers, industry and utilities. It monitored market developments and EU demand. It provided advice and follow-up to ensure appropriate implementation of the common supply policy.
The Supply Agency responded to queries related to the withdrawal of the UK from the EU and Euratom submitted by individuals or undertakings with commercial relations with businesses established in the UK.
() Article 53 of the Euratom Treaty.
() Article 13.1 of the statutes.
() Commission Regulation (Euratom) No 66/2006 provides details of how transactions involving small quantities of nuclear materials are handled.
() COM(2014) 330 final, of 28.5.2014 https://www.eesc.europa.eu/resources/docs/european-energy-security-strategy.pdf