Nuclear energy

Who will look after our nuclear security?

The stress tests on European nuclear power plants have turned up plenty of flaws in the safety of the installations. Although already hotly disputed by member states, the results are raising the question of the jurisdiction of the EU.

Published on 3 October 2012 at 15:11

Today, October 4, EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger is to present the results of “stress tests”, carried out in the wake of the Fukushima disaster of March 2011, of the safety of the 134 nuclear reactors in the states of the EU. The tests highlight many failures, and estimates of the cost of the work needed to bring the nuclear power plants of the Old Continent up to international safety standards run to between 10 and 25 billion euros. The findings have already spurred lively debates in the member states.

Le Monde remarks on “tension between Paris and Brussels,” since France, the main producer of electricity from nuclear power in Europe, with 58 reactors in 19 nuclear power stations, is singled out for criticism in the Commission’s report —


The report finds that emergency equipment, such as generators, are not sufficiently protected against the elements in the event of a natural disaster in France [...] Finally, the French power stations lack seismic measuring instruments. [...] The French authorities have tried to play down the conclusions. [...] Paris is wary of any attempt by the European Union to centralise the regulation of the nuclear sector. [...] The French authorities also fear that the findings of this long-term exercise will revive the debate on phasing out nuclear power.

Newsletter in English

In the Netherlands, Trouw reports that its Borssele plant “failed the safety test.”


The Borsselle nuclear power plant (...) does not comply with international safety requirements regarding the dangers of flooding. [...] Nor is the plant sufficiently secured against earthquakes.

“The results in from Borselle, however, are not so bad compared to other plants in Europe,” writes the newspaper, referring not just to “a nuclear superpower like France” but to plants in eastern Europe and to four plants in Finland and Sweden, where the cooling systems are not up to standards – “running the risk of a Fukushima-type scenario (a meltdown).” Belgium, however, has been congratulated by the Commission for its way of “communicating the flaws in the Doel and Tihange plants,” explained an academic who had sat on the Commission, in an interview with Trouw. The two plants were shut down this summer because of cracks in the tanks of two reactors. The Commission’s report does not mention this problem, as “the test did not address that.” In Berlin, Die Welt holds that “the real scandal is the impotence of the EU.” The newspaper is outraged that the EU has sent a group of experts travelling around the continent for months to check the nuclear plants one by one, while “the facts have been on the table for a long time. A call to the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] would have been enough.” What’s more —


The reality that those responsible for the resistance testing clearly and repeatedly ran up against obstructions from governments and energy companies when they wanted to look into a plant gives us an idea of the true desire for transparency in the nuclear field on the part of certain member states. A resistance test will thus inevitably be spotty. [...] Brussels, which regulates the banalities of everyday life to a ridiculous degree, has no jurisdiction over the existential pan-European questions that are nuclear safety and storage of nuclear waste.

Are you a news organisation, a business, an association or a foundation? Check out our bespoke editorial and translation services.

Support independent European journalism

European democracy needs independent media. Voxeurop needs you. Join our community!

On the same topic