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25 November 2011

Europe this week

Table of content:

Nuclear Safety

"Stress tests" paving the way for safe and secure power plants in Europe


Towards a European sky without national borders

Nuclear Safety

"Stress tests" paving the way for safe and secure power plants in Europe

Following the nuclear accident in Fukushima in March this year, the European Commission has intensified its efforts to ensure maximum protection for Europe's citizens and to prevent similar scenarios happening in Europe. As a first step, the Commission initiated comprehensive risk and safety assessments - "stress tests" - to examine the safety and security of Europe's nuclear power plants. These assessments will allow the European Commission to review and update the European Union's nuclear safety legislation. This week the European Commission has published the first "stress test" results in an interim report.

As a matter of fact

Nuclear power stations currently produce almost a third of the electricity and 15% of the energy consumed in the EU. After the German decision to stop several nuclear power plants, there are now 135 plants that operate in the following 14 Member States of the EU:

Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and United Kingdom.

All these countries participate in the "stress tests" as well as Lithuania, which is currently decommissioning its nuclear power producing units. Switzerland and Ukraine take part in the exercise as neighbouring countries.

After the accident in Fukushima, Member States decided to develop a common and coordinated approach to nuclear risk assessments and they carry them out on a voluntary basis. Nuclear radiation does not stop at national borders. A nuclear disaster affects all countries of Europe alike, regardless whether nuclear power is part of the national government's "energy mix" or not.


The stress test is organised in three phases:

  • Self assessments by nuclear operators. Nuclear operators were asked to produce progress reports by 15 August 2011 and final reports by 31 October 2011;

  • Review of the self assessments by national regulators. National regulators review the information supplied by operators and prepare national reports (progress reports by 15 September 2011, final reports by 31 December 2011);

  • Peer reviews of the national reports, conducted by national and European Commission experts in the period January – April 2012.

The start of the assessments was 1 June 2011. In compliance with the agreed deadlines, all the participating Member States have submitted their progress reports to the Commission. These form the basis of the interim report that the Commission presented this week.

In the spotlight

The European Nuclear Safety Regulators' Group

    The European Commission examines the "stress tests" in close cooperation with the European Nuclear Safety Regulators' Group (ENSREG), which

  • is an independent, authoritative expert body created in 2007 following a decision of the European Commission;

  • is composed of senior officials from the national nuclear safety, radioactive waste safety or radiation protection regulatory authorities from all 27 Member States in the European Union and representatives of the European Commission;

  • is to establish the conditions for continuous improvement and to reach a common understanding in the areas of nuclear safety and radioactive waste management;

  • introduces the important global agreements – the international conventions – that deal with nuclear safety and its regulation. It describes how these global agreements are implemented in the EU Member States and the role the EU and ENSREG play in this along with other international organisations.

Country specific

Some national regulators have already considered revising the safety margins they apply to their nuclear installations, for example in the following areas:

  • increasing the robustness of plants against extreme flooding (e.g. Finland, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland);

  • ensuring back-up in the event of loss of power, including loss of offsite power and station blackout (e.g. Finland, Romania, Slovenia, Spain);

  • ensuring back-up cooling capacity in the event of loss of ultimate heat sink (e.g. Finland, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden);

  • increasing the robustness of plants against beyond-design-basis earthquakes (e.g. Finland, Hungary, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland).

Some reports indicate potential improvements in the spent fuel pools that would enable them to handle events such as earthquakes or flooding, for which they were not designed (e.g. Finland, Hungary, Lithuania, Slovenia).

Furthermore, several reports identify possible improvements in the management of severe accidents and emergency procedures (e.g. Germany, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden).

Looking ahead

The European Commission has started drawing the first lessons from the tests, although the final results of the stress tests will only be known next year, when the tests are completed. The current interim report identifies a number of policy areas where further action is deemed necessary, either through better coordination among Member States, or by proposing new EU legislation on nuclear safety:

  • New EU legislation could define common criteria for the sites, the design, the construction and the operation of nuclear power plants. Legal provisions should also enhance the independence of national regulators.

  • Member States could put in place cross-border nuclear risk management plans to prepare better for a nuclear emergency and to coordinate their response actions.

  • A European approach to liability should be achieved. The aim would be that victim compensation is improved regardless of their country of residence. Financial liability requirements in Member States should also converge.

  • EU Research Programmes should focus on nuclear safety.


The national reports and peer review results are available at the website of The European Nuclear Safety Regulators' Group, ESREG, at

On nuclear energy, see


Towards a European sky without national borders

EU passengers and airlines will benefit from cheaper, shorter-distance, greener and more punctual flights in Europe once a single airspace across Europe, the 'Single European Sky', is realised. Working towards unifying the nationally fragmented air traffic control systems across Europe, the European Commission – the EU's executive body – has urged Member States to take action to implement the 'Single European Sky' legislation and to improve the performance of air navigation service provision.

As a matter of fact

Each day there are more than 26,000 daily flights in Europe, accommodating approximately 38,000 flight hours. More than 16,700 air traffic controllers direct the traffic from/to 450 European airports. The huge volume of air traffic is managed by hundreds of air traffic control sectors that are operated by more than 60 air traffic control centres in Europe. As the network of aviation routes is based on national sovereign airspace, air traffic management is very fragmented and dominated by national service provision. Approximately more than 1000 hours of delay per day and longer routes are the result of the current situation, meaning higher costs, longer flights and more fuel consumption than necessary.


The European Union has been working on reforming and unifying Europe's fragmented air traffic control systems since 2000, when the European Commission launched the Single European Sky initiative. Throughout the last ten years, the European Union has adopted two major sets of legislative measures:

  • The first Single European Sky legislative package was adopted in March 2004. Bringing air traffic control under EU competence, the package consisted of a framework regulation and three technical regulations that applied to both, the civil and military sectors of aviation. The regulations were designed to improve and reinforce safety and to restructure the airspace on the basis of actual traffic flows instead of national borders. The legislation covered regulatory, economic, safety, environmental, technological and institutional aspects of aviation.

  • Stating that the first Single European Sky legislative package was not sufficient to meet the increasing number of flights and the developments of the European single market of aviation, the European Union adopted a second package of legislation in 2009 ('Single European Sky II'). Aiming at truly establishing the Single European Sky from 2012 onwards, the package is based on five pillars: performance, safety, technology, airports and the human factor.

    In the spotlight

    Functional Airspace Blocks

    The answer to the current situation of fragmented air traffic control is to integrate air navigation service provision within so-called functional airspace blocks. Air navigation services will be managed according to operational needs instead of national boundaries. The result will be significant capacity gains and more efficient use of airspace across the continent.

    The creation of functional airspace blocks takes place under the Single European Sky legislative framework. These nine functional airspace blocks will be established:

    NEFAB: Estonia, Finland, Latvia, including Norway as a non-EU Member State

    DANISH/SWEDISH: Denmark, Sweden

    BALTIC: Poland, Lithuania

    FABEC: France, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland

    FABCE: Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina

    DANUBE: Bulgaria, Romania

    BLUEMED: Italy, Malta, Greece, Cyprus

    UK/IRELAND: United Kingdom, Ireland

    SOUTHWEST: Portugal, Spain

    Country specific

    In 2011, EU Member States agreed on EU-wide performance targets in relation to air navigation service provsision. Member States are required to adopt performance plans to show how they will meet the EU-wide performance targets adopted by the Commission.

    European Union-wide performance targets were agreed in the key performance areas of environment, capacity and cost-efficiency.

    For the first reference period 2012-2014, assessments revealed that only the performance plans of Lithuania, Belgium, Luxemburg, the Netherlands and Denmark are in-line with the agreed European Union-wide targets. All other EU Member States are requested to revise their plans in order to comply with the targets (see table in annex for information on each Member State).


    According to an assessment by the European Commission, the national performance plans would miss the EU-wide target for cost efficiency by 2.4% in 2014. Additional measures are needed to achieve a €250 million saving over the entire three year reference period 2012-2014.

    Existing plans by Member States would also fail to meet the EU-wide target of 0.5 minute delay per flight in 2014. If this target was achieved, some €920 billion would be saved over 2012-2014 due to fewer and shorter delays.

    Looking ahead

    The European Commission has called on Member States to confirm their commitments and to take action in order to successfully implement the Single European Sky legislation. Failing to take measures at national level to achieve the Single European Sky would oblige the Commission to reopen the legislative packages in view of more radical solutions. Also, Member States are to revise their performance targets in line with the Commission's recommendations.


    On the Single European Sky, see


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