Leaked EU nuclear stress tests reveal hundreds of defects
Today @ 09:22
BRUSSELS - Hundreds of defects have been found throughout Europes nuclear reactors and mostly in France, according to a EU stress test report leaked to the German and French media.
The stress tests assess whether any of Europes 143 licensed nuclear power plants can withstand extreme events such as earthquakes and terrorists attacks.
The tests were introduced after the nuclear accident in Japan's Fukushima some 18 months ago. EU energy commissioner Gunther Oettinger is to present the final report and recommendations in the upcoming EU summit on 18 and 19 October.
We have reassessed all the nuclear power plants in Europe in the light of Fukushima, said commission energy spokesperson Marlene Holzner on Monday (1 October).
Oettinger is also scheduled to present his findings to his fellow EU commissioners on Wednesday.
The European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (Ensreg), a group of senior officials from the national nuclear regulatory authorities from all 27 member states, said on Monday in a statement said they have yet to be informed of the content of the report.
The commission had not made available to Ensreg any draft of the communication. However, the content of a draft was known by some Ensreg members and this draft raised major problems and concerns in Ensreg, said the group's chairperson Tero Varjoranta.
Meanwhile, a preview into the content by French daily Le Figaro and German daily Die Welt suggests none of Frances 58 nuclear power plants meet, to varying degrees, the international security standards outlined by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
For the very first time in history, we know for all the nuclear power plants in Europe whether these very high standards are actually used or not used, said Holzner.
Nineteen French reactors have no seismic measuring instruments, says Le Figaro. The paper also notes that safety and rescue equipment in case of disaster is not adequately protected unlike at German, British and Swedish reactors.
The report does not recommend shutting down any one EU nuclear power plant, say the papers, but notes that getting them up to standard would cost some 25 billion.
National regulators carry out the initial stress tests inspections. Teams of safety experts from the EU member states and the commission then scrutinize their conclusions followed by on-site spot checks.
For its part, Belgiums national regulator, the federal agency for nuclear control (FANC), decided to shut down two of its seven reactors in August after having discovered thousands of cracks.
The discovery of the cracks came two months after having submitted their peer-reviewed EU stress tests in April.
"Results of the stress tests are still perfectly valid. In any case they had an altogether different purpose," said FANC at the time.
Thousands of cracks found in Belgian nuclear power plant
17.08.12 @ 09:26
BRUSSELS - Belgiums nuclear safety chief, Willy De Roovere, on Thursday (16 August) said there could be thousands of cracks in the reactor vessel of the ageing Doel 3 nuclear reactor situated 25 km outside Antwerp and 3 km from the Dutch border.
The inspector said the cracks are parallel to the surface of the walls and pose no immediate threat but the large number has left him concerned, reports AFP. Repairs, he noted, would be almost impossible.
It is in the reactor vessel that the water of the main primary system flows through the core, where it is heated by the nuclear fuel.
The cracks, which possibly date back to the reactor's construction some 40 years ago, were discovered using ultra-sound during inspections in June and July.
Belgiums nuclear regulator, the federal agency for nuclear control (FANC), said the reactor is in shutdown mode for inspections and its fuel has been discharged.
The reactor poses no threat to the population, workers or the surrounding environment, stated FANC. The agency says the cracks had only now been discovered because the ultra-sound inspection had never before been carried out.
The announcement follows a meeting in Brussels on Thursday organised by FANC along with nuclear experts from the United States, France, Switzerland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom.
"We are considering these flaw indications very seriously and they were the focus of the international meeting of the nuclear safety authorities held today," said the FANC in statement.
Dutch company Droogdok Maatschapij (DRM), which is no longer in business, built the Doel 3 reactor vessel. The company also built another 21 casings for other reactors around the world.
These include another one for Belgium's Tihange 2 reactor, two in The Netherlands, two in Germany, two in Spain, one in Sweden, two in Switzerland, 10 in the United States and one in Argentina, reports Belgium's Le Soir newspaper.
Belgium has since shut down the Doel 3 but aim to reportedly restart the reactor in October. Authorities also aim to shut down its Tihange 2 reactor for one week.
The vessel at Tihange 2 will undergo the same type of inspection in mid-August as the one carried out on Doel 3. Both were constructed by DRM in the 1970s, said the FANC.
"I wish to point out that Doel 3 and Tihange 2 are currently in shutdown mode and as such, there is no danger for the population, the workers and the environment," said Roovere.
Belgium passes EU nuclear stress tests
The EU initiated nuclear stress tests on all of Europe's 143 reactors in April 2011 in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster in March.
The tests were meant to assess whether a EU-based nuclear power plant could withstand, for instance, natural disasters such as earthquakes or terrorist attacks.
FANC submitted its peer-reviewed EU stress tests on Belgium's reactors in April 2012, two months before the cracks were discovered.
"The assessments of the robustness of the plants and situations taken into account are considered adequate. In general, the robustness of the facilities is considered satisfactory by Belgian regulatory body," says the report.
The report noted, however, that further tests are needed to truly assess the impact of earthquakes and other severe weather conditions.
FANC says the cracks were not highlighted in the stress tests because they focused solely on extreme external phenomena.
"Results of the stress tests are still perfectly valid. In any case they had an altogether different purpose," says FANC.
Belgiums nuclear reactors are managed by Electrabel, a company of the GDF-SUEZ Energy and Services Group.