Sunday

29th Mar 2020

Leaders tell EU neighbours to stress-test nuclear plants

  • A memorial at Ukraine's Chernobyl plant (Photo: Trey Ratcliff)

EU leaders have called on neighbouring states including Russia and Ukraine to carry out 'stress tests' on their nuclear plants.

The move comes as the 27-member bloc prepares to undergo a similar nuclear safety exercise, as the political fall-out from Japan's ongoing nuclear accident continues to spread around the globe.

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Leaders on Friday (25 March) asked the European Commission and the European Nuclear Safety Regulatory Group (Ensreg) to develop the scope and criteria of the European tests, set to be carried out by independent national authorities.

Their outcome and any necessary subsequent measures will be transmitted to the commission and ENSREG, with the commission then set to draw up a report for EU leaders later this year.

"Nuclear reactors that don't pass will have to reinforce security or be shut down," Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero told journalists.

In the meeting's final conclusions, EU leaders said: "The priority of nuclear plants obviously cannot stop at our borders. The EU will request that similar 'stress tests' be carried out in the neighbouring countries and worldwide."

The commission has also been asked to "reflect on how to promote nuclear safety in neighbouring countries."

"Of course we respect the sovereign right of our neighbours, but we believe that these matters are of global responsibility," European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said after the meeting.

"Next month, I will go to Kiev for an event to commemorate the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. We are working with Ukraine on closing the sarcophagus of Chernobyl."

Some environmental groups have attacked EU policies supporting Ukraine's 2030 energy strategy however, a plan that envisages prolonging the life-span of 12 reactors from 30 to 45 years and building 20 new ones.

The National Ecological Centre of Ukraine (NECU) says the strategy, which includes increasing Ukraine's nuclear energy exports, runs counter to the county's lack of nuclear waste management and decommissioning capabilities.

"The EU, in its drive for energy security, is supporting this direction, through consistent investments made in Ukrainian transmission lines via the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and the EU Neighborhood Policy," campaigner Yuri Urbanski told this website.

Japan on Friday launched an investigation into the source of a radiation leak at the quake-hit Fukushima nuclear plant, after two workers were rushed to hospital. The plant's operator said that dangerously high radiation levels were recorded in water at one reactor, raising the possibility that its core has been damaged.

To date, 17 EU states have provided financial or in-kind support including blankets, mattresses and sleeping bags to Japanese clean-up operations.

On Thursday, the EU also imposed stricter controls on Japanese food imports, with products from 12 Japanese prefectures now requiring radioactive testing before leaving Japan.

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