The European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG) and the European Commission (EC) have failed to agree the specifications for stress tests to be carried out at all of the European Union's nuclear power plants.
A meeting of ENSREG on 12 May ended inconclusively, apparently after disagreement over whether the tests should be limited to worst-case accident scenarios involving natural disasters or whether man-made incidents, such as terrorist attacks, should be included.
EU ministers decided in March that an assessment of Europe's 143 nuclear power reactors should be carried out to re-check their safety in light of the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan. The EC and ENSREG, an authoritative expert body composed of senior officials from the national regulatory or nuclear safety authorities of all EU member states, was charged with defining the scope and modalities of the tests.
The tests are to be based on draft proposals drawn up by the Western European Nuclear Regulators Association (WENRA), while the assessments themselves are to be conducted by independent national authorities and through peer review.
According to ENSREG, the tests will mean that nuclear power plants will have to prove that they have enough back-up power systems in place in case power supply is interrupted. Moreover, they will have to describe what would happen if successive back-up systems fail to work. While there is no deadline for when the stress tests must be adopted, the EC is due to present views based on the outcomes of the national reports and peer reviews in an interim report to the European Council on 9 December 2011. The Commission is then expected to propose revisions to European nuclear safety legislation in the light of results from the stress tests during 2012.
Press reports in the Financial Times and euractiv.com suggest that the Brussels meeting stalled because countries including the UK and France argued that the scope of the tests should be limited to natural disasters such as earthquakes and floods. EU energy commissioner Günther Oettinger has called for the tests to cover the widest range of issues.
According to an EC statement, another meeting of ENSREG will be held on 19-20 May in Prague.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News