The European Commission says the recent investigations into the Doel 3 nuclear reactor in Belgium illustrate the need to monitor plant safety more thoroughly and share best practices.

Nicole Bockstaller, Press Officer for Energy Policy at the Office of EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger, told Power Engineering International that there was no direct relation
between the investigations in Belgium regarding material defect in the Doel nuclear power plant and the EU stress test exercise.

European Union

“But, the results of recent investigations into Doel 3 have demonstrated the need to continuously check plant status with state of the art techniques and share information as widely as possible.”

 In the wake of Fukushima, the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group used “stress tests” to assess the readiness of Europe’s reactors for similar events, and defects exposed in a separate investigation in Belgium re-emphasised the need for better practices.

Ms Bockstaller added, “Those events have once more highlighted the need for dialogue between operators and safety authorities in order to share and implement best practices and state of the art technology.

The report within others recommends that Periodic Safety Review (PSR) of each NPP should be carried out at least every 10 years, to maintain and improve the safety and robustness of plants and revaluate the natural hazards to which plants may be subject to.”

The Commission is now looking into the findings of the EU nuclear stress test report and is to come up with follow-up proposals in 2013.

The recent report showed that Europe’s nuclear plants were ill-equipped for external problems similar to what happened in Japan.

Of 145 reactors checked, 121 had no or inadequate seismic instruments to detect earthquakes, and 32 lacked venting systems to prevent pressure build-ups in reactor vessels if the primary cooling system fails.

Some 81 reactors did not have adequate equipment available for coping with severe accidents such as earthquakes or floods, and 24 didn’t have backup emergency control rooms.

In spite of these issues, the nuclear safety group says that overall the reactors operate safely and none need to be shut down.

Operators in all countries, including the UK, have been asked to rectify all of the problems uncovered. Each country has until the end of the year to produce a national action plan, and the European Commission will report on progress towards implementation in June 2014.

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