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No. 058/12 | Berlin, 26.04.2012

Review of European nuclear power plants to be continued - EU to develop action plan

Nuclear safety to be further increased

At their meeting in Brussels on 25 April, the heads of the European nuclear safety regulators and the European Commission endorsed the report on the review of nuclear power plants in the EU by an international team of experts and agreed on additional measures. The German Environment Ministry strongly advocated continuing this unprecedented exercise in Europe by identifying additional concrete measures. It was decided to rapidly define an action plan on the basis of the review results.

The report highlights four important priority measures for the purpose of further strengthening nuclear safety in Europe:

  • Further improvement in the evaluation of natural risks especially with a view to plant robustness;
  • Need to evaluate the safety features of sites in the context of periodic safety reviews every ten years;
  • Ensuring containment integrity in a severe accident;
  • Necessity of on-site emergency preparedness and response to prevent severe accidents and limit their consequences.

Joint efforts by Germany and other Member States led to the decision to draw up a joint action plan which should comprise the following objectives:

     

  • Implementation of the recommendations of the peer review report;
  • Implementation of the IAEA action plan on nuclear safety adopted in the wake of the Fukushima accident;
  • Taking account of the outcomes of the extraordinary meeting of the Convention on Nuclear Safety to be held in August 2012;
  • Additional site visits to nuclear power plants.

Peer review report on Germany

The report on Germany shows that in the three main areas of the review – external events, loss of power and cooling, severe accident management – nuclear power plants have met strict and robust requirements for many years. Periodic safety reviews every ten years have been a legal requirement since 2002 and had already been an established practice on a voluntary basis prior to that date. Measures that ensure containment integrity have been introduced. The team of eight reviewers for Germany stresses that on-site emergency preparedness and response has been implemented at a high technical level in German plants, but recommends organizing emergency guidelines (e.g. training) in a more systematic way.

In conclusion, the international reviewers recommend that international procedures for the evaluation of earthquakes and extreme weather events should be followed more closely as a means of further improving safety. This refers to scientific assumptions rather than technical measures. The German Environment Ministry has asked the Reactor Safety Commission (RSK) to analyze the results of the EU stress tests conducted in German nuclear power plants and to bear them in mind in future deliberations on possible safety improvements.

The peer review was conducted in Germany from 19 to 23 March 2012; representatives of the German Environment Ministry, the nuclear safety regulators of the Länder, the technical support organisations GRS and TÜV, the RSK and the operators were available to answer the experts' questions. The reviewers had selected the Grafenrheinfeld nuclear power plant where they gathered information on on-site emergency preparedness and response and on the availability of specific equipment. They did not evaluate the plant as a whole as this was not part of the European stress test.

The German EU stress test report dated 31 December 2011 not only addresses research on the three main priority topics and on the impact of accidents in adjacent plants, but also includes RSK statements issued after its review of German nuclear power plants in the spring of 2011 related to man-made events such as aircraft crashes, gas explosions outside the plant and terrorist attacks. These are issues that go beyond the requirements established by the EU.

Background information on the EU stress tests

Europe's nuclear safety regulators jointly carried out a review of nuclear safety in the European Union for the first time. The German Environment Ministry is convinced that this review provided unprecedented insight into important safety features and characteristics of European nuclear power plants and into on-site emergency preparedness and response.

The participating Member States submitted their reports to the EU Commission before the end of 2011. In a second step, an international expert team was established for each country in order to conduct an independent peer review. These teams gave recommendations for improving safety levels in the country-specific review reports.

Protection against deliberate aircraft crashes and other terrorist attacks was included in the review of European nuclear power plants at the request of Germany. These issues are dealt with in an additional exercise which also involves domestic security authorities. This work has not yet been completed.

Protection against deliberate aircraft crashes and other terrorist attacks was included in the review of European nuclear power plants at the request of Germany. These issues are dealt with in an additional exercise which also involves domestic security authorities. This work has not yet been completed.

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