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EU Finalizes Nuclear Reactor 'Stress' Tests

European Commissioner for Energy Guenther Oettinger addresses the media at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, May 25, 2011

The European Union and nuclear safety regulators, after weeks of negotiations, have agreed on new safety checks to be performed on the region's 143 nuclear reactors.

The agreement announced Wednesday in Brussels outlines details on the so-called "stress tests" that are to begin June 1. They will examine whether the atomic power plants within the EU can safely withstand incidents ranging from accidents and natural disasters to terror attacks. A report of the results is expected next April.

The new, tougher testing requirements are a response to the disaster at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant following the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit the country on March 11.

While EU officials believe the most significant threat to nuclear facilities comes from terrorism, the testing program will not deal with stopping such attacks. Officials say that issue will be dealt with separately by the national security agencies of member states.

The EU said it also hopes to work with Switzerland and neighboring Russia and Ukraine to assess their nuclear power plants.

The Swiss government on Wednesday announced it would not replace existing nuclear power stations when they reach the end of their lifespan. That means the five Swiss power stations will shut down between 2019 and 2034.

The decision comes days after an estimated 20,000 Swiss participated in an anti-nuclear protest.