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October 04, 2012

EU Nuclear Plants Fail to Meet International Safety Standards

by Selah Hennessy

Europe is in need of at least $13 billion worth of improvements to its nuclear power plants, according to a series of reviews carried out across the European Union.  The EU energy commissioner says regulators and operators should act immediately.

The EU commissioner in charge of energy, Gunther Oettinger, spoke in Brussels.
He says nearly everywhere in Europe there is need for improvement.  He says the commission should work with operators and regulators to reach the highest standards as soon as possible.

The Europe-wide tests were ordered after Japan’s Fukushima disaster in March of last year, which was triggered by an earthquake and a tsunami.

Europe’s review investigated whether plants would be able to withstand natural disasters, aircraft crashes and management failures.  It also checked to see if they would be able to cope with power disruptions.  

The review concluded the region’s nuclear plants have “satisfactory” safety, but many fail to meet international standards.  It says nearly all the European Union’s 143 plants are in need of improvements.

The review was done on a voluntary basis and the commission has no authority to force the improvements.  But Oettinger says national governments should make timetables for action and in 2014 Brussels will review whether plants have been upgraded to fulfill safety requirements.

Some European parliamentarians in Brussels said they were disappointed the commission had not pressed for stronger action on the nuclear industry.
European parliamentarian Rebecca Harms said she thought the review had avoided some of the tough questions, but that she was happy it had revealed security vulnerabilities.  

She says the review has demonstrated the need for stronger security standards in every country that runs nuclear power plants.

The review was made in 15 European Union countries along with Switzerland and Ukraine.  A British government spokesperson said there is no evidence that British nuclear facilities are unsafe.

France's nuclear safety authority said it had reservations about the report, but that the country is taking action to improve safety.