Resolution on EU stress test lessons

25 January 2013

The European Parliament's energy committee has approved a draft resolution recommending the speedy implementation of lessons learned from stress tests conducted at the European Union's (EU's) nuclear power reactors.

The Industry, Research and Energy Committee (ITRE), chaired by Amalia Sartori, approved the resolution by 48 votes in favour, 5 against and 7 abstentions.

"This resolution must serve as a basis for the ongoing preparation for the Nuclear Safety Directive, and I believe it is a very good basis."

Amalia Sartori
ITRE chair

Members of the European Parliament are set to debate nuclear safety in plenary on 6 February and will vote on the draft resolution the following day.

The resolution says that nuclear operators should cover the costs of the recommended safety upgradesat all of the EU's 131 power reactors. The total cost of these upgrades is estimated at some €25 billion ($34 billion), averaging about €190 million ($256 million) per reactor. The committee also called for new proposals on nuclear insurance and liability to be put forward by the end of 2013.

"This resolution must serve as a basis for the ongoing preparation for the Nuclear Safety Directive, and I believe it is a very good basis," said Sartori.

She noted, "Nuclear energy is an important reality in the present EU mix and our firm support for this stress test exercise shows how crucial the European Parliament considers the combination between safety and energy security." Sartori added, "I am sure that all EU member states will take concrete actions to promote the findings of the tests and will promptly adapt to the highest applicable level of standards."

Stress tests

The stress test program was ordered by the European Union in response to the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident. It comprised safety assessments carried out by nuclear operators, which were then reviewed by national regulators. The resulting reports then underwent a peer review process. The finalised reports were endorsed by the independent European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG) in April 2012.

Following a review of the stress test results, the European Commission announced in October 2012 - several days after a leaked copy of a draft version of the report had received widespread coverage in European news media - that safety is generally good at Europe's nuclear power plants, although nearly all need to make some improvements. Presenting its conclusions, Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger described the situation at Europe's plants as "generally satisfactory."

Although the tests did not show that any European nuclear power plant should be shut down for safety reasons, they identified a number of plant-specific technical improvements. Areas highlighted for attention at a number of reactors include tightening the application of standards for earthquake and flooding risk calculations, the installation or improvement of on-site seismic instruments, the installation of containment filtered venting systems at those reactors that do not already have them, the storage of equipment needed in the event of severe accident in "places protected even in the event of general devastation" and the availability of a backup emergency control room should an accident render the main control room unusable.

The Commission also reviewed the existing European legal framework for nuclear safety and said it would present a revision of the current nuclear safety directive in early 2013, focusing on safety requirements, the role and powers of nuclear regulatory authorities, transparency and monitoring. It intends to report on the implementation of the stress test recommendations by member states in June 2014, in partnership with national regulators.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News