The UK may have to run stress tests on its nuclear power stations every six years under new plans put forward by the European Commission.
The EU’s governing body proposed the legally binding reviews last week in yet another example of worldwide efforts to tighten up safety in the wake of the Japanese nuclear disaster in 2011.
The triple blowout at the Fukushima power plant sent shockwaves around the world and several nations have completed an “about-turn” on nuclear, with Germany intending to close its nuclear plants and Japan reluctant to turn its own back on.
Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger said: “It’s up to Member States to decide if they want to produce nuclear energy or not. The fact remains that there are 132 nuclear reactors in operation in Europe today. Our task at the Commission is to make sure that safety is given the utmost priority in every single one of them.”
The European Union wants all power plants designed so that “if a reactor core is damaged, this has no consequences outside the plant”; an EU-wide safety review at least once every 10 years; and an emergency response centre at each power station which is protected against radioactivity and earthquakes or flooding.
On top of this member states would have to make sure that an accident does happen, any radioactivity released in the environment is “practically eliminated”.
The UK Government said it would need to consider proposed changes to rules governing all its plants’ safety, the Nuclear Safety Directorate, “in detail” before reaching a position on the plans.
A DECC spokesperson added: “We can however confirm that where there is robust evidence to support the need for changes the UK will of course work with the Commission and other Member States to ensure the EU nuclear safety regime is appropriately enhanced.”