EU agrees “stress tests” for nuclear reactors


European nuclear watchdogs have agreed details of safety checks on the EU’s reactors to prevent crises like that in Japan, but they will not include tests for resisting terror attacks, the European Commission said.

European leaders agreed in March to subject European nuclear power plants to “stress tests,” but since then experts at national nuclear authorities have been wrangling over details such as whether to test for resilience to acts of terror.

EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said on Wednesday terrorism would be excluded from the pan-European tests for reasons of national security, Reuters reports.
“The questions of how to defend against the dangers of terror do not belong to the tasks of the supranational authorities, but are part of the internal national security,” Oettinger told German radio station Deutschlandfunk.
“Therefore, I respect that some member states say they don’t want to show their cards. That could even abet terrorism,” he added.

The Commission had wanted assessments of security arrangements to be conducted at pan-European level.

Austria, Europe’s most vocal opponent of nuclear power and which banned new plants in 1974, said all its main demands had been met.
“This really was a tough fight,” Austrian Environment Minister Nikolaus Berlakovich told Austrian radio. “I welcome that a nuclear safety system is being set up for the first time at the European level. The nuclear lobby resisted it, of course.”

The deal looks set to have to have a profound impact on Europe’s energy consumption, with fossil fuel demand already rising in Germany after it ordered the suspension of some of its older nuclear plants.

Campaigners are pushing for the elimination of some types of plant, such as those without containment structures for reactors or fuel pools, or those that face seismic threats.

That might point to increased public opposition to Britain’s gas-cooled Magnox reactors, Russian-made units in Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic, and old boiling water reactors in Germany, Spain, Sweden and Finland.