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Brussels, 7 March 2013
Two years after Fukushima – nuclear safety in Europe
Immediately after the accident in the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan on March 11, 2011, the European Union decided to reassess the level of nuclear safety in all nuclear power plants in the EU. This was the first time that:
This was done in close cooperation with ENSREG, the group of national safety authorities of all 27 Member States.
What did the stress tests check?
The main aim of the stress tests was to assess the safety and robustness of nuclear power plants in case of extreme natural events. This means especially flood and earthquakes. Both scenarios were assessed simultaneously. Air plane crashes have been covered to the extent that they have the same effect as tsunami and earthquakes, meaning that they shut down normal safety and cooling functions.
These stress tests consisted of three phases. In phase one the nuclear power plant operators carried out a self-assessment, in phase two national regulators evaluated these self-assessments and prepared country reports. In phase three, these reports were analysed by multinational teams in a peer review process, organised by ENSREG, the group of national safety authorities of all 27 Member States. In addition, the peer review teams have visited nuclear power plant sites. 17 countries fully participated in the stress tests (all 14 EU countries with operating nuclear power plants, Lithuania with a plant under decommissioning, plus Ukraine and Switzerland).
What were the main findings of the stress tests?
The European Commission's communication on results of the nuclear stress tests (4 October 2012) based on the ENSREG Report (presented at the June 2012 European Council for information) has revealed that:
Have safety features of nuclear power plants already been improved?
All 14 Member States with nuclear power plants and Switzerland have prepared national action plans which include timetables for implementation. These plans will be peer-reviewed by national teams at the end of April 2013.
The European Commission and ENSREG will review the status of the implementation of the recommendations by June 2014.
In several Member States works on improvements have already started. These works include for example:
When will the improvements be completed?
The deadline of 2015 should be understood as indicative timeframe given by the Commission to the Member States to remind them of the importance of the implementation of the recommendations and to encourage them to do it as swiftly as possible. Some investments required will, however, certainly go beyond 2015.
How much will all this cost? And where will the money come from?
According to the estimations by nuclear power plant operators and national regulators, the improvement measures could cost up to €200 million per reactor unit. As there are 132 nuclear reactors in the EU, the overall cost of improvements could mount up to €25 billion.
As the first responsibility for safety lies with plant operators, they will have to ensure the appropriate funding.
Possibilities for financial assistance at the EU level for safety upgrades are extremely limited. Some financial support in the form of EURATOM loans could be granted for safety-related nuclear power plant projects, but very little funds remain available under the existing loan scheme.
Following its commitment in the Accession Treaty, the Commission has been providing financial support for decommissioning of potentially unsafe nuclear power plants in Bulgaria, Lithuania and Slovakia.
Will you propose new legislation? And when?
This year, the Commission intends to propose a revised Nuclear Safety Directive, guaranteeing that the key lessons learned from the Fukushima accident and the conclusions of the stress tests are properly taken into account. Areas that are currently assessed in more detail: safety procedures and frameworks, independence of the regulator, transparency and enhancing monitoring and verification mechanisms. We will work in close cooperation with experts from Member States.
In terms of emergency preparedness and response, the Commission has launched a study to compare existing approaches in EU Member States and neighbouring countries. The main objective is to identify possible gaps and develop proposals for improvements.
How many nuclear power plants (NPPs) were included in the stress tests and where are they located?
All Reactors in the EU were assessed – there are in total 145 reactors in 15 EU Member States:
From EU neighbouring countries, Switzerland (with 4 operating NPPs consisting of a total of 5 reactor units) and Ukraine (with 4 operating NPPs consisting of a total of 15 reactor units) fully participated in the stress tests.
Further information on the findings of the stress tests: