Member states of the European Union (EU) will get a few more months to complete tests on their 147 nuclear power plants, and a final stress test report will be completed this fall—not this summer as initially expected— before any new nuclear safety laws are proposed, EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger said last week. 

The announcement follows the submittal of a peer review board report to the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG) and Energy Commission that identifies four main areas of improvement, including the lack of consistency in the assessment of natural hazards, the need for regular assessments and implementations of known safety measures. Measures also call for an improvement of prevention measures such as protecting mobile equipment and emergency response centers against extreme natural hazards and contamination.

The report is the part of the third phase of stress tests mandated by the EU after the Fukushima crisis in Japan last year. In Phase 1, nuclear power operators had carried out a self-assessment;  in Phase 2, national regulators in the EU’s 15 countries with nuclear plants, plus Ukraine and Switzerland, conducted inspections and compiled report about their countries’ nuclear reactors; and in Phase 3, multinational teams analyzed the country reports presented by national authorities. The multinational teams had the choice to visit between one and four reactors in each of the 17 countries participating in the test. So far, of the EU’s 147 nuclear reactors, 38 nuclear reactors have been visited during the peer review process in March 2012, the EU said. 

The ENSREG said the board tabled the report within a “very tight time frame,” and it agreed with the report’s conclusions that the EU should examine some safety aspects of Europe’s nuclear plants in more detail and prepare a follow up to cover additional safety aspects.

"This extensive report is a major element of our stress tests. Now, we will do additional visits of power plants and analyse some safety aspects in more detail. EU citizens have the right to know and understand how safe the nuclear power plants are they live close to. Soundness is more important than timing," Oettinger said, adding that the EU might agree to legislative proposals to improve nuclear safety next year.

Sources: POWERnews, EU Energy Commission