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Germans, Dutch, Belgians not ready for nuclear accident

January 31, 2018

Cooperation on nuclear safety with Germany and Belgium existed on paper, but was doubtful in practice, a recent report has found. The probe did not focus on the nuclear plants' safety but on their crisis management.

The Tihange power plant in Belgium
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/O. Berg

The Dutch Safety Board (OVV) has urged the Netherlands to improve its cooperation with Belgium and Germany to better prepare for a potential nuclear accident that could impact all three neighboring nations, according to a report released on Wednesday.

The probe was commissioned amid public concerns over the safety of Belgian nuclear plants Doel and Borssele. Both plants are over 40 years old and are located in a densely populated area just across the Dutch-Belgian border.

The nuclear plants Tihange and Emsland, which would affect Germany in the event of an accident, were also evaluated in the report.

Human chain against ageing nuclear plants spans three countries

More joint safety exercises needed

The 193-page document, published in Dutch and English and with shorter summaries in French and German, did not center on the safety of the nuclear power plants but specifically on the cooperation and preparedness of all three nations in the event of an accident.

Read moreDangerous neighbors: German-Belgian nuclear agreement doesn't fix problem

While the board assessed the chance of a serious accident as small, it questioned the preparedness in the event that one occurred.

"The Dutch Safety Board has concluded that cooperation has partly been arranged on paper, but that it probably will not run smoothly if a nuclear accident were to occur in reality," the document said.

To fix this, the board recommended the three countries carry out more joint safety exercises and arrange coordination of measures in the event of an accident.

The board pointed out that preparations to protect residents against radiation differ among all three countries and that residents in one country receiving different safety instructions from their neighbors on the other side of the border could "lead to confusion and unrest."

Map showing location of Doel 2 and Tihange 2 nuclear power reactors

Additionally, the OVV urged authorities to "pay greater attention to society's concerns," and found that the three neighboring nations are "not well prepared for dealing with bottlenecks that might result from linguistic and cultural differences" in these areas.

In June 2016, the Tihange 2 nuclear reactor, located approximately 70 kilometers from the German city of Aachen, had to be shut down due to a motor failure in a non-nuclear part of the plant. Other incidents at the plant have caused a public outcry from citizens across both Dutch and German borders.

Read moreGerman city of Aachen offers iodine tablets amid nuclear fears

The series of incidents at Tihange also led to calls for its closure from lawmakers in the Netherlands, as well as Germany and Luxembourg.

Fault-prone nuclear reactor

jcg/sms (ap, afp)