In response to Japan’s Fukushima disaster, the European Commission on June 1 began stress tests on143 nuclear powerplants operated within the 23 member states of the European Union.
The EC expects tests to be complete by year’s end. Later this month, the commission will invite neighboring countries, including Russia, Ukraine and Turkey, to follow suit.
For the most part, stress testing is a desktop exercise to review safety factors and is already a part of the licensing procedure for nuclear plants, says Andrej Stitar, chairman of the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group, which helped devise the methodology.
“All the natural disasters should be evaluated … especially earthquakes and floods,” says Stitar. Furthermore, combinations of natural disasters—such as the tsunami-earthquake combination that hit the Fukushima plants—also must be reviewed, he adds. The European Commission also wants tests of non-natural disasters, including transportation accidents, as well as checks on the robustness of power- and heat-removal systems.
National governments have until mid-September to compile operator stress-test reports for submission to the EC. Starting this autumn, reports will be peer-reviewed by international teams. The European Council of Ministers, including national energy ministers, will receive the final report on Dec. 9.
Ahead of the European Union program, the world’s largest nuclear operator, Paris-based Electricité de France (EdF), in April created a rapid-reaction task force to respond to crises within 24 to 48 hours. Using dedicated transportation and staff, it will provide extra electricity and water- supply backup.
Undaunted by events in Japan, Henri Proglio, EdF’s chairman and chief executive officer, re-affirmed the company’s commitment to nuclear expansion at the May 24 shareholder general meeting.
Proglio’s says EdF will have 200,000 MW of generating capacity installed by 2020, half of it nuclear. The company now operates 75,000 MW of nuclear capacity globally, mostly at 57 French reactors.