Europe's nuclear reactors need investments of between €10 billion and €25bn to bring them up to optimal safety standards, a final report on nuclear sites in Europe to be published by the European Commission today (4 October) is expected to conclude.
The ‘stress tests' of Europe's nuclear facilities were carried out in response to the nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan 18 months ago. They were meant to test whether Europe's facilities could cope with natural and man-made disasters.
The latest draft of the report does not say that any nuclear reactor in Europe is too unsafe to operate. But it identifies concerns across Europe, including a lack of seismic measuring instruments, insufficient safety and rescue equipment, and inadequate emergency plans. The largest number of concerns was found in France.
Anti-nuclear campaigners criticised the report, which they said glosses over more serious concerns. “The final report of the EU nuclear stress test charade looks set to dodge all the tough questions, as expected,” said German Green MEP Rebecca Harms.
“At the very least, the Commission should be pressing for the security deficiencies identified in the report to be rectified,” she said. “However, given the prohibitive costs, with estimates of up to €25 billion, investors will be willing to commit to this only if reactors stay online far longer than foreseen. These stress tests cannot be used as an excuse to justify lifetime extensions for decrepit nuclear reactors.”
The nuclear industry said the stress tests show that European plants are safe. “It's not unexpected that there would be safety improvements that can be made, the industry is used to paying for these,” said Jon-Pol Poncelet, director general of nuclear industry association Foratom. “If there is some money needed to support the improvements we will do that, and we will finance them in the current operations. This is in no way a threat to the competitiveness of the nuclear industry.”
The final report was presented by energy commissioner Günther Oettinger to his fellow commissioners yesterday (3 October) and adopted by the Commission. Oettinger will present the results to national leaders at the European Council on 18 October.