Brussels to get tough over N-tests

In response to a wave of public pressure, the European Commission is expected to take legal steps tomorrow that could halt French nuclear tests in the South Pacific.

Using its powers under the Euratom Treaty, the Commission is expected to send a letter to the French government demanding access to all safety information relating to geological damage and radioactivity. According to a text being discussed in Brussels, the letter will instruct France to hand over the information within five days "and in any case before any further tests in the current series are carried out".

Although two tests have been carried out, the Commission has until now declined to invoke European law, which gives it the power to assess health and safety measures before any "particularly dangerous experiment" is carried out by a member state.

Jacques Santer, the Commission President, has been reluctant to provoke a clash with France, in view of the potential political backlash for the EU. The Commission's nuclear experts advised Mr Santer to send a verification team to inspect safety measures in the South Pacific as long ago as July, but none was sent until after the first test.

French lobbying against intervention by the Commission has been intense. Last week it was revealed in a secret diplomatic memorandum that France was confident it had an understanding with Mr Santer that the Commission would not take action.

However, several factors have brought about a tougher Commission stance. There has been mounting public criticism, reflected in an increasingly belligerent attitude from the European Parliament, which debates the issue tomorrow. The parliament has warned that it might take the Commission to the European Court of Justice for failing in its duty as a "guardian of the treaty".

The Commission initiative has also been provoked by anger at France's failure to hand over sufficient information on safety measures in the South Pacific.

That has intensified in recent days, since Commission officials who visited the region were refused access to the test sites. Nuclear experts working in Brussels have raised serious concerns about potential danger from the tests, warning that cracks in the rock strata could allow leaks of radiation.

The Commission hopes that the letter to Paris will bring about a political compromise. However, if enough safety information is not provided or it does not prove satisfactory, the issue could be taken to the European Court of Justice.

The EU's Euratom Treaty provides the only legal avenue for a challenge to the nuclear testing. Previous tests carried out during the Cold War provoked less concern from the anti-nuclear lobby, and the treaty has rarely been invoked. With the end of the Cold War, however, Greenpeace, supported by many member states, has raised the issue.

The powers of the Commission to challenge France come under Chapter Three of the treaty, which gives Brussels responsibility for protecting the health and safety of workers and the general public against radiation. Article 34 states: "Any member state in whose territories particularly dangerous experiments are to take place shall take additional health and safety measures, on which it shall first obtain the opinion of the Commission."

The Commission has already requested information from the French on health and safety monitoring, but key data has been withheld.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
News
people
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger & Credit Control Assistant

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Ledger & Credit Control...

Recruitment Genius: Project Administrator

£16000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: International Trade Advisors - Hertfordshire or Essex

£30000 - £35379 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The company is based in Welwyn ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Controller - Response Centre

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn