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EU Report Reveals Hundreds Of Problems With European Nuclear Reactors

October 03, 2012

by Rikard Jozwiak

BRUSSELS -- A report by the European Commission shows there are hundreds of security and safety problems in Europe's nuclear power plants.

The study highlights shortcomings in how the continent's reactors might cope with extreme conditions.

A draft of the report was obtained on October 3 and is due to be published on October 4. It shows almost all of the continent's 143 nuclear power plants have problems that could cost up to 25 billion euros ($32 billion) to fix.

Nuclear stress tests were carried out in 17 European countries, including Ukraine. The testing was commissioned after the nuclear accident that followed a tsunami that hit Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant last year.

European Commission spokeswoman Marlene Holzner said that the tests were carried out with the Japanese disaster in mind.

"We have checked whether our nuclear power plants could withstand a similar natural catastrophe. We have examined both [to see] if they would withstand a tsunami and also flooding." Holzner said.

"We have also included an airplane crash to the extent that they would have the same effect," she added. "That means if there is an accident that would completely destroy the electricity, what kind of effect that would have and whether our power plants are prepared for that."

Although refusing to speculate on the content of the final version of the report, Holzner said it would be useful to apply a common international safety standard to the nuclear plants across Europe.

"For the very, very first time in history, we know for all the nuclear power plants in Europe whether these very high standards are actually used or not used," she said.

"So in the recommendations we will give, we will check different kinds of criteria and we will say that these criteria and these international standards have not been met in these nuclear power plants, and we will recommend that these will be used in the future."

The commission cannot force individual EU member states to shut down their nuclear power plants. But the findings will be discussed by European heads of government when they meet at an EU summit later this month.

No Nukes?

Jack Hunter of the environmental group Greenpeace hopes the report will lead to a phase-out of nuclear energy on the continent.

"We would hope that increasingly in these member states, the population would press the leaders to move to a position where they would be in favor of moving out of nuclear [power]," Hunter said.

"It is up to individual member states, though, how they chose their energy mix. So countries should heed what has been alerted today and move away from nuclear."

The draft report showed significant problems in France, which generates 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear sources. To varying degrees, none of France's 58 nuclear power plants met the security standards set down by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The draft report said 19 French reactors have no seismic-measuring instruments. It added that safety and rescue equipment is not adequately protected.

In Ukraine, the draft report focused on shortcoming in evaluating how well reactors and support systems could deal with earthquakes and extreme wind or snow conditions.

Source: http://www.rferl.org/content/eu-report-reveals-hundreds-problems-european-nuclear-reactors/24727818.html

Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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