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24th Jan 2022

Europe delays nuclear stress tests

  • Berlin wants tougher tests on Europe's nuclear plants (Photo: Nicholas Sideras)

Europe's nuclear safety regulators on Thursday (12 May) failed to reach an agreement on 'stress tests' for nuclear plants, due to squabbling over whether to include terrorist attacks and other man-made disasters.

Backed by Berlin, EU energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger had insisted that potential terrorist attacks be part of the screening for checking the resilience of Europe's 143 plants. The issue was forced on the the political agenda following the nuclear crisis at Japan's Fukushima plant.

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"We are glad Oettinger and Barroso are asking for stronger stress tests than what is currently on the table," German chancellor Angela Merkel told a group of journalists on Wednesday.

But no deal was reached on the scope of the stress tests on Thursday following six hours of talks. Representatives from France and Britain insisted that nuclear plants should be examined only to see if they can withstand natural disasters.

"No final decision has been taken," Oettinger's spokeswoman Marlene Holzner said. Earlier that day, she insisted that the commissioner would not back down for the sake of an agreement.

"Commissioner Oettinger was very clear on that - he said he would like terrorist attacks and other man-made disasters included in the tests."

He would like to start as soon as possible, but for the credibility of the tests, the content is more important than the timing. If the result is good, credible, then he would prefer to talk longer than rather just get something quick," she said during a regular press briefing.

Apart from Germany, Oettinger's home country, Italy and Austria are also backing the stricter demands.

Another attempt to reach an agreement will take place in Prague on 19-20 May.

A further delay would most likely mean that the commission will not be able to keep its envisaged timeframe of presenting a report in December on the state of Europe's nuclear plants.

This story was corrected to include Austria instead of Sweden in favour of including terror attacks in the stress tests.

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