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22nd Jan 2021

Leaked EU nuclear stress tests reveal hundreds of defects

  • A leaked EU stress test report says it it will cost €25 billion to bring Europe's nuclear reactors up to international saftey standards (Photo: Nicholas Sideras)

Hundreds of defects have been found throughout Europe’s nuclear reactors and mostly in France, according to a EU stress test report leaked to the German and French media.

The stress tests assess whether any of Europe’s 143 licensed nuclear power plants can withstand extreme events such as earthquakes and terrorists attacks.

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The tests were introduced after the nuclear accident in Japan's Fukushima some 18 months ago. EU energy commissioner Gunther Oettinger is to present the final report and recommendations in the upcoming EU summit on 18 and 19 October.

“We have reassessed all the nuclear power plants in Europe in the light of Fukushima,” said commission energy spokesperson Marlene Holzner on Monday (1 October).

Oettinger is also scheduled to present his findings to his fellow EU commissioners on Wednesday.

The European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (Ensreg), a group of senior officials from the national nuclear regulatory authorities from all 27 member states, said on Monday in a statement said they have yet to be informed of the content of the report.

“The commission had not made available to Ensreg any draft of the communication. However, the content of a draft was known by some Ensreg members and this draft raised major problems and concerns in Ensreg,” said the group's chairperson Tero Varjoranta.

Meanwhile, a preview into the content by French daily Le Figaro and German daily Die Welt suggests none of France’s 58 nuclear power plants meet, to varying degrees, the international security standards outlined by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

“For the 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,” said Holzner.

Nineteen French reactors have no seismic measuring instruments, says Le Figaro. The paper also notes that safety and rescue equipment in case of disaster is not adequately protected unlike at German, British and Swedish reactors.

The report does not recommend shutting down any one EU nuclear power plant, say the papers, but notes that getting them up to standard would cost some €25 billion.

National regulators carry out the initial stress tests inspections. Teams of safety experts from the EU member states and the commission then scrutinize their conclusions followed by on-site spot checks.

For its part, Belgium’s national regulator, the federal agency for nuclear control (FANC), decided to shut down two of its seven reactors in August after having discovered thousands of cracks.

The discovery of the cracks came two months after having submitted their peer-reviewed EU stress tests in April.

"Results of the stress tests are still perfectly valid. In any case they had an altogether different purpose," said FANC at the time.

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