22nd Mar 2023

EU to 'stress test' its nuclear energy plants

  • Events in Japan have led to heated debate over the safety of Europe's nuclear energy sector (Photo: Nicholas Sideras)

EU member states have agreed to a series of Europe-wide 'stress tests' on the region's nuclear power plants, EU energy commissioner Gunther Oettinger has said.

The decision was taken at a meeting of member state, industry and national regulatory officials in Brussels on Tuesday (15 March), hastily convened by the German commissioner following events in Japan.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"We want to organise a series of tests, very comprehensive tests throughout the Union ... We also want tests for our partner states, our neighbours," Oettinger told journalists after the meeting.

The tests are likely to assess the risks that earthquakes, tsunamis, terror attacks and power cuts pose to European nuclear plants. Other variables are set to include the suitability of cooling systems and operational activities, the requirements for back-up systems, and overall plant design.

EU examinations will be carried out before the end of this year, with French President Nicolas Sarkozy agreeing to take the matter up at the G20 level, said Oettinger.

He added that EU leaders meeting in Brussels next week were also likely to discuss the issue of nuclear safety.

Decisions on whether to use nuclear energy are taken by individual EU member states. At present there are roughly 150 reactors in the 27-member bloc, spread over roughly half as many nuclear power plants.

On Monday the German government decided to delay plans to extend the life of seven nuclear plants until an independent review is carried out. Johannes Teyssen, CEO of E.ON, one of Europe's largest energy companies, said the decision did increase energy supply risks in the country, but added that the seven plants were small compared to others.

Teyssen added that placing a moratorium on extending the life of nuclear power plants produced before 1980, the criterion used in Germany, did not make sense on a Europe-wide basis. "It was not a design-change year," he told reporters after attending Tuesday's meeting.

Other countries including France, Spain and Italy have said they are unlikely to reduce their reliance on nuclear energy.

EU member states are required to comply with a 2009 EU directive of nuclear safety standards, with the deadline for full implementation set for July of this year. A lack of EU competence means the 'stress tests' will be carried out on a voluntary basis.

"Over the course of the next week we in the commission will organise further meetings to come up with proposals for how and when stress tests with common standards and criteria can be carried out for purposes of safety in the light of knowledge gleaned from the terrible events in Japan," said Oettinger.

"We will want to use the best criteria from member states. The specifics of the test will be different from plant to plant ... obviously plants on the coast will be tested for tsunami resistance more than those at higher altitudes ... but the tests will be carried out at EU level."

'Final warning' to act on climate change, warns IPCC

The United Nations's report — synthesising years of climate, biodiversity, and nature research — paints a picture of the effects of global warming on the natural world, concluding there is "no time for inaction and delays."

EU launches critical raw materials act

The EU presented its strategy to ensure access to critical raw materials needed for clean technologies. No country should supply more than 65 percent of any key material. Currently, China dominates almost all rare earth metal markets.

'The race is on', EU Commission warns on green tech

The EU Commission is expected to detail its plans on Thursday as part of the Net-Zero Industry Act on industrial incentives, and the Critical Raw Materials Act, which seeks to reduce EU over-reliance on China.

Looser EU fiscal rules agreed, with 'country-specific' flexibility

EU finance ministers agreed on new spending rules, copying much of previously existing rules. One worry is that only three countries — Sweden, Denmark and Luxembourg — could currently afford to meet green commitments while meeting debt and deficit rules.

Latest News

  1. EU Parliament joins court case against Hungary's anti-LGBTI law
  2. Three French MEPs to stay on election-observation blacklist
  3. Turkey's election — the Erdoğan vs Kılıçdaroğlu showdown
  4. When geopolitics trump human rights, we are all losers
  5. EU starts talks on 11th round of Russia sanctions
  6. EU fears Tunisia turmoil will spark migrant boat departures
  7. 'Symbolic' Putin indictment gets some EU backing
  8. 'Final warning' to act on climate change, warns IPCC

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ways to prevent gender-based violence
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Economic gender equality now! Nordic ways to close the pension gap
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: Pushing back the push-back - Nordic solutions to online gender-based violence
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCSW67: The Nordics are ready to push for gender equality
  5. Promote UkraineInvitation to the National Demonstration in solidarity with Ukraine on 25.02.2023
  6. Azerbaijan Embassy9th Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting and 1st Green Energy Advisory Council Ministerial Meeting

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us