Nuclear power generators will see their competitiveness tested after the European Parliament‘s Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) committee voted that operators will have to pay for all safety upgrades recommended from recent nuclear stress tests.

The ruling also includes responsibility for all costs for which they are liable in the case of a potential accident.

The safety improvements for nuclear power plants in Europe could cost the industry up to $33bn, industry observers have warned.

The ITRE committee’s decision reinforces the European Commission and nuclear authorities’ assessments on the need for safety improvement of nuclear reactors in Europe, which followed “stress tests” after Fukushima.

However, smaller or older plants could come under greater threat of closure and industry observers told ICIS.com that the safety upgrade recommended by nuclear stress tests could raise nuclear operating costs by around 1 per cent.

It is not yet clear what the implications are for nuclear cost effectiveness compared to other energy sources but small operators might be in difficulty as their profits might not fully cover high safety upgrade costs.

“Nuclear operators will have to take these costs into account,” Richard Ivens, institutional affairs director of European nuclear lobby group the European Atomic Forum told ICS.com.

“However, I believe that nuclear operators in Europe will remain competitive, [as power production earnings will cover the safety implementation costs].”

A source close to French nuclear safety authority ASN suggested that EDF might have to spend $6.7bn on safety improvements just in France, which relies on nuclear energy for more than 70 per cent of its power generation. However, no plant in France is expected to be closed as a result from the safety implementation imposed by the stress tests’ outcome.

At Thursday’s meeting ITRE also called for new proposals on nuclear insurance and liability to be put forward by the end of 2013. Members of the European Parliament will vote on the resolution on 7 February.

The European Commission plans to present a report on the implementation of stress test recommendations by member states in June 2014.

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