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New Nuclear Safety Regime For Europe?

  • March 22nd, 2011
  • Posted by EUEditor

nuclear-topnewsnznet.jpegMinisters from the European Union countries have agreed (21.3.11) to a program of “stress tests”  on nuclear reactors as a move to protect against accidents.

The move has got a sceptical response from nuclear opponents, including Greenpeace which has put out a list of problem plants in the EU; while in Japan, the battle continued to quell the dire problem which stirred up so much recent concern.

STEP-ONE AGREEMENT ON POWER COMPLEXES

eurobook-council.jpgThe Energy and Economics Ministers were in Brussels to continue work on joint ways of handling financial crises but the impacts of the nuclear crisis in Japan took up much of their time.

They agreed on a coordinated set of risk assessments for the reactors at large power plants – more than 112 reactors in the EU, another 15 in Ukraine and five in Switzerland.

The tests would control against flooding, breakdowns in reactor cooling systems and emergency power supplies, and sabotage through cyber-attacks or terrorism.

However this will be a voluntary scheme, not part of the mandatory EU system of government that involves penalties for non-compliance; and agreement on the testing methods and procedures was put off by the Ministers, till another day.

NOT ENOUGH?

greenpeace-logo.jpeg“What!?!” called out Greenpeace International,

It said (22.3.11):

“Genuine tests should be compulsory, transparent, independent and go beyond current safety testing, which is now based on the lowest common denominator rules agreed by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

“They should also lead to the rapid closure of plants which fail this test.

“The European Commission and nuclear operators have a poor track record on transparency.

“Therefore, Greenpeace remains sceptical about proposed stress tests on Europe’s nuclear plants.”

DANGER LIST

nucl-2-climatechange-connectionorg.jpegIt then listed several reactors it regarded as among the main risks to safety:

  • VVER440 Reactors; a Russian design without secondary containment, more vulnerable to terrorist attack.  Twelve reactors, four each in Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
  • Candu Reactors; a Canadian design with a “design flaw that played an important role in the Chernobyl disaster; rules in countries like Germany or France do not allow this design.” Two in Romania.
  • Reactors in seismic zones.  “Even minor earthquakes can cause power failure at nuclear plants as well as structural damage, especially in older reactors.” Two reactors in Romania, one in Slovenia, planning for two in Bulgaria and for “several” in Italy.
  • Ageing reactors. “Any reactor older than 30 years is of higher concern than others. Steel and welding seams experience fatigue under constant neutron bombardment, especially in the reactor vessel and  primary cooling circuit. Many such plants are operating beyond their scheduled lifetime.” Old reactors in Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Netherlands Sweden, Switzerland, UK and Spain.

iaea-flag.jpgIn Vienna, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) up-dated its monitor on the struggle with broken cooling systems at the Fukushima nuclear power complex in Japan, the damage caused by the earthquake and tsunami on 11.3.11.  See EUAustralia Online, “Impacts of Fukushima crisis world-wide”, 16.3.11.

The UN agency, along with United States agencies has field staff in Japan assisting the engineers working to restore cooling plants and contain further reactions.

Reports from IAEA:-

Fukushima Nuclear Accident Update (22 March 2011, 4:15 UTC)

Japanese authorities have reported that they will measure radioactivity in the marine environment around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The monitoring will be conducted from 22-23 March by the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC). Sea water sampling from eight locations will be sampled and analysed by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), and results will be provided on 24 March. The analysis will include radionuclide concentrations found in sea water and dose rate. The IAEA will continue to follow this information.

Fukushima Nuclear Accident Update (21 March 2011, 23:15 UTC)

Status of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant

Japanese authorities have notified the IAEA that efforts to restore power for the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant are on-going. As of 19 March at 21:46 UTC, the power centre at unit 2 had received electricity. Work to restore electricity to units 3 and 4 is continuing.

White smoke was reported seen emanating from unit 2 on 21 March at 9:22 UTC. Grayish smoke was reported seen emanating from unit 3 at 6:55 on 21 March, and this was reported to have ‘died down’ two hours later. All workers at units 1 through 4 evacuated after the smoke at unit 3 was seen. The IAEA is seeking further information at this time on the status of workers at the site.

Japanese authorities have also reported that water has been sprayed over the Common Spent Fuel Pool; this started on 21 March at 1:37 UTC. The IAEA is seeking further information on this development and will report further as updates are received from Japan.

Reference

Chuck Penfold, Nancy Isenson (dpa, AP, AFP), “EU ministers seek highest nuclear safety standards”, Deutsche Welle, Bonn, 22.3.11. http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,14929924,00.html, (22.3.11).

European Council, Brussels, “ Nuclear safety and energy supply in focus”,  21.3.11. http://www.consilium.europa.eu/showFocus.aspx?id=1&focusid=579&lang=en, (22.3.11).

Greenpeace International, Amsterdam, “Nearly half Europe’s nuclear reactors of particular concern”,  (Briefing), 22.3.11.

IAEA, Vienna, “ Fukushima Nuclear Accident Update …”, 22.3.11. http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/tsunamiupdate01.html, (22.3.11).

Pictures

Climatechangeconnections.org, topnews.nz, greenpeace, IAEA 

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