Row over Commission-owned nuclear plant in the Netherlands

06.12.04 @ 09:41

  1. By Mark Beunderman

Serious safety breaches were found last year at a Commission-owned nuclear plant in the Netherlands, but further investigations were blocked by authorities, it has emerged.

According to Dutch daily De Volkskrant on Saturday (4 December), a police raid in September 2003 revealed dangerous abuses of environmental and safety standards at a reactor based in Petten, which is owned by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre.

However, documents from the Dutch Justice Ministry, obtained by the paper, show that the Dutch government hindered further judicial investigations against the plant.

The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs allegedly feared a diplomatic conflict with the European Commission.

The Commission had stated in a series of letters to the Dutch authorities that it would find prosecution of the Petten plant staff unacceptable, as Commission employees working at Petten possess legal immunity in the Netherlands.

Ongoing investigations against the plant by the Dutch public prosecutor were therefore hastily broken off in March 2004.

Explosion risk

However, after the police raid, Dutch prosecution authorities characterised the situation at Petten as very serious.

The investigations had revealed that toxic waste was stored without protection, bearing a risk of explosion.

De Volkskrant quotes concerned Dutch officials at the Public Prosecutors Office, who fear a situation of lawlessness at the Commission’s power plant.

One official is quoted as saying that a "nuclear free-haven" has been created at Petten.

However, both the Joint Research Centre and the Dutch Ministry for the Environment reacted over the weekend saying that after a series of recent improvements, safety at the plant is now guaranteed.