Joint Research Centre - European Commission

The European Commission's in-house science service
European Commission

Nuclear power station

Europe's nuclear reactors produce roughly 30% of its electricity© Patrick Hajzler (stock.xchng)

JRC starts preparations for the final phase of Europe’s nuclear stress tests


Between October and December, a JRC-run secretariat will organise and prepare a series of peer reviews on Europe’s nuclear power plants (NPPs), to be carried out by experts from the European Commission and the countries involved in early 2012. The peer reviews represent the final phase of three succeeding stages foreseen for testing the safety of the European nuclear plants.

Following the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant the European Council called for a review of the safety of all EU nuclear power plants, on the basis of a comprehensive and transparent risk and safety assessment called ‘stress tests’. 17 countries participate in the test, including 14 EU Member States operating nuclear power plants and Lithuania – which recently closed its last unit at Ignalina NPP – as well as Switzerland and Ukraine. Discussions are ongoing with other neighbouring countries to apply similar risk and safety assessment in the future.

The scope and modalities of these tests was developed by the European Nuclear Safety Regulatory Group (ENSREG) and the Commission. The stress tests comprise three steps: a self-assessment by the Licensees, a review of this self-assessment by the national nuclear Safety Authority and a peer-review by Commission experts and fellow colleagues from other countries. The JRC acts as secretariat for the risk and safety assessments, and will coordinate the peer reviews.

The second phase of the tests is now underway and the third phase – the peer review – is under preparation. The peer reviews are envisaged to start once the final reports from the national Safety Authorities are collected – deadline being the end of 2011 – and will run until the end of April 2012. A team of reviewers from the JRC will participate to the peer reviews.

The participating national nuclear Safety Authorities sent their national progress report to the JRC Secretariat in September. So far, no major issues have arisen in the participating countries. In some cases, potential safety improvements to increase the robustness were identified, such as the provision of additional mobile equipment including mobile diesel generators and installation of additional passive hydrogen recombiners.