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Nuclear reactors under stress

The European Commission and the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG) yesterday failed to reach agreement on the criteria for safety tests – or ‘stress tests’ – of Europe’s nuclear power reactors. The tests, ordered by the European Union in March following the Fukushima disaster, are designed to check that plants can withstand natural disasters and other unexpected events. Yesterday’s talks became deadlocked because of resistance by France and the UK to including the risk of terrorist and cyber attacks in the tests. The groups will meet again in Prague 19-20 May to try to reach agreement.

The European Commission has a FAQ on the stress tests here. It promises to get tough:

What happens, if a country does not shut down a plant which fails the tests?

The Commission will publish the report of the national authority and also the peer review. This means that the results are known to the public and a government has explain to its public why it has taken a decision or failed to act. "

Fessenheim

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports than an initial check-up on US nuclear reactors, by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has found serious problems with emergency management equipment:

Marty Virgilio, the deputy executive director of the agency, told the five commissioners that inspectors checked a sample of equipment at all 104 reactors and found problems at less than a third of them. The problems included pumps that would not start or, if they did, did not put out the required amount of water; equipment that was supposed to be set aside for emergencies but was being used in other parts of the plants; emergency equipment that would be needed in case of flood stored in places that could be flooded; and insufficient diesel on hand to run backup systems.

Image: Fessenheim, France’s oldest nuclear power plant (Credit: ASN)

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