Following the nuclear accident in Fukushima, the EU reacted swiftly and agreed on voluntary tests for all of its 143 nuclear power plants based on a set of common criteria. In its Communication published 24 November, the Commission looked at first findings of these stress tests and pointed to some policy areas where the EU nuclear safety framework can be strengthened with common standards.
Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger said: “The stress tests are an essential step in our effort to enhance the safety and security of nuclear power plants in Europe. We cannot accept anything less than the highest possible technical standards. While each individual member state has the right to decide whether to produce nuclear power or not, it must be made sure that citizens are not put at risk and that the highest safety standards are not only prescribed but also respected everywhere in the EU, and beyond."
In parallel with these efforts, the Commission has also proposed to provide further EU assistance of €500 million to support the decommissioning in Bulgaria, Lithuania and Slovakia. These funds will contribute to the continuation of safe decommissioning of the nuclear power plants Kozloduy, Ignalina and Bohunice. Oettinger stressed: "It is in our citizens' interest, that these reactors will be safely decommissioned and that they will never be restarted again.”
Nevertheless, all 14 member states which operate nuclear power plants (Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and United Kingdom) and Lithuania, which, as said previously, is currently decommissioning its last nuclear power producing unit, are taking part in the stress tests.
The stress tests are carried out on a voluntary basis and conducted for the very first time in the EU. The Commission is now already drawing the first lessons from the tests, although the final results of the stress tests will only be known next year, when the tests are completed. Some of the policy areas that the communication identifies where further action is deemed necessary include new EU legislation that could define common criteria for the citing, design, construction and operation of nuclear power plants, proposing for member states to put cross-border nuclear risk management plans to prepare better for a nuclear emergency and to coordinate their response actions, and that the EU research programmes should focus on nuclear safety.
Additionally, for the decommissioning of the nuclear power plants, the said member states will have to meet certain conditions including EU legislation on nuclear safety on the management of nuclear waste has to be fully implemented, member states have to create legal frameworks for the timely accumulation of national financial resources to cover the remaining financial needs, and revised detailed decommissioning plans have to be submitted to the Commission. If these criteria are put in place, then the proposal foresees for Bulgaria an additional €185m until 2020, for Lithuania €210m until 2017 and for Slovakia €105m until 2017.