The European Commission has proposed new legislation, allowing nuclear power plants to be tested every six years, in a bid to improve safety in the sector.

“The fact remains that there are 132 nuclear reactors in operation in Europe today,” EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger noted. “Our task … is to make sure that safety is given the utmost priority in every single one of them.”

EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger

The measures were welcomed by conservative politicians in the European Parliament, while green elements say the proposals don’t go far enough.

They are critical because the commission does not want the mandatory, every-six-year tests to cover the entire reactor, but only a specific safety aspect that would be agreed between member states – for instance protection against floods or precautions for a possible plane crash.

A round of voluntary tests carried out on European nuclear power plants after the Fukushima scare revealed that almost all were in need of safety improvements.

EU member states will now have to approve the commission’s proposal – which also includes extra tests for plants whose lifetime is being extended, requires an emergency response centre at every plant, and seeks higher design standards – for it to become law.

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