Europe's 'dangerous' nuclear plants need €25bn safety refit

Post-Fukushima tests identify hundreds of problems in reactors, leaked report reveals


Nuclear "stress tests" carried out at the European Union's 143 atomic reactors have exposed "hundreds" of problems which could need up to €25bn of investment in order to restore proper plant safety levels, a report reveals today.

The disturbing safety shortcomings were disclosed in a leaked draft of a report on the state of Europe's atomic power industry, which is due to be published by the European Commission in Brussels today. It was commissioned in the aftermath of last year's nuclear disaster in Japan, when an earthquake and subsequent tsunami led to a meltdown at three of the Fukushima nuclear plant's reactors.

The draft, which could differ from the final version of the report, concluded that "on the basis of the stress test results, practically all nuclear plants need to undergo safety improvements".

"Hundreds of technical upgrade measures have already been identified," it added.

With Europe struggling to shake off its economic woes, the draft report warned that safety precautions differed greatly and that the amount needed to upgrade them ranged from €30m to €200m per reactor unit – or a total of up to €25bn across the EU.

It also pointed out that 47 of the EU's plants contained a total of 111 reactors which were surrounded by more than 100,000 inhabitants living within 30km.

Although the stress tests were conducted to minimise the risk of a Fukushima-style disaster happening in Europe, the report came to the alarming conclusion that in some cases safety recommendations made in the aftermath of much earlier nuclear disasters had not been enforced.

"Following the accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, urgent measures to protect nuclear plants were agreed. The stress tests demonstrated that even today, decades later, their implementation is still pending in some member states," it warned.

According to the leak, the stress tests had shown that four reactors in two unnamed countries would have less than an hour to restore safety functions if electrical power was lost. However, the draft failed to specifically identify any of the reactors which suffered problems, or, in most cases, reveal the exact nature of the safety defects.

Fears about causing alarm to residents living in the vicinity of reactors was underlined by a statement issued by the regulatory body for European nuclear safety, which urged the report's authors not to use language that could undermine public confidence.

The stress tests also found deficiencies at Britain's nuclear plants. It said most of them lacked an alternative emergency control room which could be used as a back-up if the main control room became contaminated by radiation. However, the UK Department of Energy insisted to the BBC that there was no evidence that British nuclear facilities were unsafe.

The leaked details of the report prompted criticism from anti-nuclear groups which argued that its warnings did not go nearly far enough. They said the draft failed to address risks in crucial areas, such as ageing technology, human error or inability to withstand terrorist attacks.

"If this exercise were serious, the Commission would be recommending the closure of unsafe or ageing reactors," Rebecca Harms, a veteran German Green party member and co-president of the Green/European Free Alliance in the European Parliament, told the BBC.

Without being specific, the draft report singled out France, which relies on nuclear power for 80 per cent of its electricity and is Europe's biggest atomic energy producer. It has a total of 58 nuclear reactors and the report found failings at all of them.

The problems appear to have been unearthed even though France carried out its own stress tests on its 19 nuclear plants and 58 reactors last year in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.

France boosted its investment in nuclear power after Fukushima but in neighbouring Germany, widespread public alarm prompted Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative-led government to perform a policy U-turn and commit itself to abandoning nuclear power by 2022. In the aftermath of the French stress tests, France's ASN nuclear safety agency said they showed that "sufficient" safety levels were being maintained but recommended additional facilities to cope with accidents and ensure that plants could resist extreme situations such as flooding or earthquakes.

Yesterday's leaked document also said that next year the EU Commission intended to propose new insurance and liability legislation which would "improve the situation of potential victims in the event of a nuclear accident".

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power