Terrorism thrown out of nuclear ‘stress tests’

Stress testing’ of the European Union’s 143 nuclear power reactors will not specifically include terrorism after that idea was rejected by national safety regulators.

Instead, the tests will focus on the aspects of nuclear plant safety highlighted by the Fukushima accident: earthquakes and flooding as natural events, as well as loss of safety functions and severe accident management following any initiating event.

The tests will be applied to the 143 nuclear reactors in the European Union’s 27 member states, as well as those in any neighbouring states that decide to take part. Results are to be peer reviewed and shared between regulators, which retain sovereign authority on nuclear safety entirely above any powers of the European Commission or the European Council, which decided to carry out ‘stress tests’ on 21 March.

Representing the independent regulators of the EU, the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG) said security issues like terrorism prevention and response were outside its mandate. It nevertheless noted the stress test analyses would be relevant for the eventuality of aircraft crash.

The push to include deliberate criminal attack had been led by Günther Oettinger, a German appointee to the European Commission selected for the energy brief. Despite gaining support from anti-nuclear countries such as Austria and Germany, Oettinger faced vehement opposition from nuclear users like France and the UK on national security grounds. For now, full consideration of security issues such as terrorism has been placed aside to be handled by a special working group of EU states and the EC. The ‘mandates and modalities’ of this group are to be set by the European Council.

Today Oettinger’s staff used finely-tuned language to link the tests with terrorism: “These are comprehensive tests as the Commission has called for which embrace both natural and man made hazards (i.e. effects of airplane crashes and terrorist attacks).” They further emphasised in Q&A documents that aircraft crashes could be included among man-made events. That possibility actually lies with national regulators, which must submit their specifications to nuclear licensees by 1 June.

For the full story please go to World Nuclear News