Repair bill for EU’s 134 reactors could hit 25 bn euro
By Sophie Mosca and Nathalie Vandystadt | Tuesday 02 October 2012
The recommendations the European Commission is set to present, on 4 October, after the stress tests carried out on 134 operational nuclear reactors in 68 European sites underline the need to remedy shortcomings, in particular in the event of a flood or an earthquake. The recommendations do not, however, go so far as to call for any plant closures.
On 1 October, Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger said that this report on the safety of the European nuclear park showed a “satisfactory situation” in Europe and it neither overly dramatised the situation nor was it “complacent”. The report, seen by
Europolitics, closely inspected the EU’s nuclear plants to verify that they are in line with international rules – amended after the Fukushima accident. The report checked, in particular, risks of an earthquake, floods, problems with the storage of rescue equipment and electricity supply cuts – ie ‘natural hazards’. According to the text, safety adjustments to the European nuclear park would cost a further €10-25 billion, ie €30-200 million per nuclear reactor. The commission is likely to opt for the higher price bracket to guarantee safety but the last word will be with the national safety authorities that will plan the work.
France, with its 58 reactors (ie 40% of the European nuclear park), is in the firing range. A total of 19 French nuclear power plants fail to comply with safety standards. The report specifically points out problems in the adequacy of seismic measuring instruments or the protection of safety equipment in the event of natural disasters.
Evacuation procedures in the event of serious accidents are also found lacking, in particular in Chooz or Cattenom (but not Fessenheim, the oldest active nuclear power plant in France, which the government has pledged to close).
This yet unpublished report has, however, been criticised by NGOs and by Europe Ecologie MEPs as it does not cover human risk, such as a terrorist attack, an air crash, human error, etc. Thus, Michèle Rivasi (Greens-EFA, France) says: “Let’s not forget that these stress tests were only carried out a minima and that they were not enough to detect the microfissures on Belgian reactor vessels”.
Meanwhile, Greenpeace France said that the publication of these stress tests subtly points out that France’s stubborn determination to prolong its dependency on nuclear energy – be it at 75% or 50% – will cost the taxpayer increasingly more money.
For other countries, the report notes the lack of hydrogen recombiners to prevent hydrogen explosions in the UK’s ten nuclear power plants and in Spain’s six.
Lastly, the report criticises the shortcomings of emergency procedures in the case of serious accidents at the 12 active German nuclear sites.