EU agrees ′stress tests′ for Europe′s nuclear power plants | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 15.03.2011
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EU agrees 'stress tests' for Europe's nuclear power plants

The European Union has agreed to carry out safety checks on the continents 153 nuclear reactors. EU ministers and nuclear safety chiefs have met for an emergency meeting following the escalating nuclear crisis in Japan.

Geiger Counter

The nuclear crisis in Japan has sparked global concern.

The European Commission announced on Tuesday that stress tests will take place on Europe's nuclear power plants to determine their safety.

An emergency meeting was called in Brussels to discuss Europe's nuclear security in the wake of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami which struck Japan on Friday, sparking a nuclear crisis.

The EU's Energy Commissioner, Guenther Oettinger, summoned environment ministers, nuclear safety chiefs and industry leaders amid rising public concern over the safety of nuclear reactors.

"We want to organize a series of stress tests, of very comprehensive tests throughout the Union," Oettinger said after the meeting.

"We want to look at the risk and safety issues in the light of events in Japan," he added.

Testing for all eventualities

The continent's 143 reactors will be tested to ensure that they can resist earthquakes, tsunamis and terrorist attacks.

It's hoped that all of the EU's 27 member states, as well as non-EU countries such as Turkey and Switzerland, will ensure that their nuclear plants undergo the stress tests.

Oettinger said, however, that there were no existing EU rules to make the tests binding, meaning that they will be conducted on a voluntary basis.

EU ministers at the meeting

EU energy ministers gathered in Brussels for the hasty meeting.

Tests will begin later this year, when guidelines have been set on the criteria, reach and extent of the checks.

EU governments and industry representatives are expected to meet again in the coming weeks to appoint independent experts to carry out the inspections and agree on common standards of assessment.

Meanwhile, France will raise the matter at an international level in its capacity as the sitting president of the G20 major economies.

International fears

Japan's nuclear emergency has sparked international concern about the safety of nuclear reactors. Germany saw 100,000 anti-nuclear activists protest on Monday and Chancellor Angela Merkel announced the provisional shutdown of seven nuclear reactors pending a safety review.

She said "we cannot just go back to business as usual," adding that events in Japan "teach us that risks that were thought to be completely impossible cannot in fact be completely ruled out."

Switzerland has also halted its nuclear program, while Italy is taking a hard look at its new nuclear energy plans.

Author: Charlotte Chelsom-Pill (dpa, AFP)

Editor: Michael Lawton

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