Two years after Fukushima – nuclear safety in Europe. Q&A
Immediately after the accident in the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan on March 11, 2011, the European Union decided to reassess the level of nuclear safety in all nuclear power plants in the EU. This was the first time that:
- A common methodology was developed
- All EU nuclear power plants in the EU were assessed at the same time and
- Multinational teams assessed nuclear power plants.
This was done in close cooperation with ENSREG, the group of national safety authorities of all 27 Member States.
What did the stress tests check?
The main aim of the stress tests was to assess the safety and robustness of nuclear power plants in case of extreme natural events. This means especially flood and earthquakes. Both scenarios were assessed simultaneously. Air plane crashes have been covered to the extent that they have the same effect as tsunami and earthquakes, meaning that they shut down normal safety and cooling functions.
These stress tests consisted of three phases. In phase one the nuclear power plant operators carried out a self-assessment, in phase two national regulators evaluated these self-assessments and prepared country reports. In phase three, these reports were analysed by multinational teams in a peer review process, organised by ENSREG, the group of national safety authorities of all 27 Member States. In addition, the peer review teams have visited nuclear power plant sites. 17 countries fully participated in the stress tests (all 14 EU countries with operating nuclear power plants, Lithuania with a plant under decommissioning, plus Ukraine and Switzerland).
What were the main findings of the stress tests?
The European Commission's communication on results of the nuclear stress tests (4 October 2012) based on the ENSREG Report (presented at the June 2012 European Council for information) has revealed that:
- Levels of safety of nuclear power plants in Europe are generally high and no NPP should be shut down for safety reasons.
- A need for significant and tangible improvements has been identified for almost all nuclear power plants.
Have safety features of nuclear power plants already been improved?
All 14 Member States with nuclear power plants and Switzerland have prepared national action plans which include timetables for implementation. These plans will be peer-reviewed by national teams at the end of April 2013.
The European Commission and ENSREG will review the status of the implementation of the recommendations by June 2014.
In several Member States works on improvements have already started. These works include for example:
- Implement/improve seismic instrumentation
- Evaluation of risk due to seismically induced floods and fires
- Reinforcement of structures against extreme weather phenomena
- Strengthening flood protection, reinforcement of embankments
- Implementation of backup cooling water supply from external mobile equipment
- Implementation of mobile diesel generators
When will the improvements be completed?
The deadline of 2015 should be understood as indicative timeframe given by the Commission to the Member States to remind them of the importance of the implementation of the recommendations and to encourage them to do it as swiftly as possible. Some investments required will, however, certainly go beyond 2015.