Pushing to have a Sellafield-examination

At an emergency meeting in Brussels yesterday, EU energy ministers agreed to carry out examinations of Europe’s nuclear plants following the crisis in Japan.
However, it is not yet known what exactly will be tested or who will carry them out.

Ireland is pushing to have all nuclear plants, including reprocessing plants such as Sellafield, included in the list for testing. They also want the tests to be as independent as possible so that no country will be involved in examining its own plants.

Mr Rabbitte said: "Priority will be given to nuclear plants on seismically significant parts of the Union first but the Irish Government wants Sellafield to be included also."

He plans to speak to British energy secretary Chris Huhn about this.

Sellafield was described as the most hazardous industrial building in western Europe in official reports, due to leftovers from early nuclear research and weapons programmes, and a series of radioactive releases into the Irish Sea.

Greenpeace said half of Europe’s nuclear reactors gave cause for concern and tests must be genuine, compulsory, transparent, independent and go beyond current safety testing.

Greenpeace nuclear policy adviser Jan Haverkamp said: "Europe should realise that it doesn’t take a major earthquake to cause a cooling-relating nuclear crisis.

"About half of Europe’s reactors are of particular concern. It remains to be seen whether the stress tests being talked about for nuclear plants will be more than a fig leaf for business-as-usual."

The European Commission has been asked to draw up these standards and Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger admitted this would not be easy.

"Let us be under no illusion. Not everyone agrees on nuclear power. There are very few questions where national governments and parliaments have such a disparity of views as they have on nuclear energy," he said.

Fourteen member states have nuclear plants and 13, including Ireland, do not. He pointed out that while countries such as Germany was trying to speed up dismantling its plants, Poland is eager to build some.

A range of risks will be tested, including earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, lightning strikes, plane crashes and possible terrorist attacks. Cooling systems and contingency and emergency plans will also be examined.

France, which gets 80% of its electricity from nuclear, together with Britain, would like to limit the tests’ scope. French industry minister Eric Besson said France will decide the fate of its own plants.

Between them, Germany and France produce one third of the EU’s electricity. German Chancellor Angela Merkel took seven of her country’s nuclear reactors offline, pending a safety review, following the earthquake in Japan.

The commission said it hopes to have the details ready for decision by the EU leaders in June, but it could be the end of the year before the tests begin.


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