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Germany

Agency: Five German Nuclear Plants Vulnerable to Attacks

The Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) has called for the shut-down of five German nuclear energy plants because they lack sufficient protection against terror attacks.

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Obrigheim plant: Shut-down before 2005?

Of Germany's 18 nuclear power plants, the five plants are most vulnerable in case of a terror attack involving planes such as the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, BfS President Wolfram König said in an interview with Berliner Zeitung. König's assessment is based on a report by the Society for Reactor Safety (GRS), Germany's central expert institution on nuclear safety.

The report however does not look at concrete, actual safety risks at particular plants, according to a statement by Germany's federal ministry for the environment, nature conservation and nuclear safety, which oversees the BfS. The ministry's statement added that German states had so far failed to review the safety of plants based on the report.

The plants include Biblis A in the German state of Hesse, which is operated by RWE, Philipsburg 1 and Obrigheim in Baden-Württemberg, which belong to energy company EnBW, Isar 1 in Bavaria that's part of power giant Eon and Brunsbüttel in Schlwesig-Holstein, which is operated by Vattenfall Europe and Eon. Spokespeople for the companies could not be reached on Saturday or did not want to comment on König's statements.

Environmentalists welcomed König's call to shut down the plants, saying that such a step was long overdue. "A plane crash could lead to a worst case scenario at any German nuclear power plant," Walter Jungbauer, a nuclear energy expert with German environmental organization BUND, told dpa news service.

E.ON legt AKW Stade vorzeitig still

The Stade plant has already been switched off.

Germany has already passed a law that will phase out nuclear energy by 2020. Each of the country's nuclear plants will be closed down after operating for 32 years. The first closure already happened last November, when the Stade plant (photo) was removed from the power grid. Obrigheim is next in line, with shut-off scheduled for May 2005.

Extending lifetime of safer plants?

König suggested that energy companies could be compensated for closing down allegedly unsafe plants by extending the operating time on other, more secure sites. "That's economically justifiable and legally possible," König told the paper.

He also criticized Germany's nuclear energy suppliers for failing to do more to protect plants from terror attacks. König said he believed the companies had not done what's necessary after the Sept. 11 attacks. He added that he didn't think proposals to enclose plants in a cloud of fog in case of an attack would alleviate the public's safety concerns.

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