Swiss watchdog orders nuclear plants to tackle flaws

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Switzerland's nuclear safety watchdog has ordered the country's atomic power stations to deal with weaknesses found in post-Fukushima quake and flood resistance inspections.

The Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (ENSI) said the flaws found at four plants, including one with two reactors, did not present an immediate danger but ordered the operators to report back on the steps they would take by August 31.

In two of the privately-run power plants, Beznau in northern Switzerland and Muehleberg near the Swiss capital Bern, "the cooling system of the pool for fuel (rods) structures is insufficiently protected against earthquakes and floods," the ENSI said.

The other two, Goesgen and Leibstadt, had flaws in temperature monitoring arrangments for emergencies, it added in a statement.

The upgraded inspections were prompted by Japan's experience with the Fukushima-Daiichi plant, which was severely damaged by an exceptional combination of a magnitude 9.0 quake and huge tsunami in March, sparking the worst nuclear accident and radiation leak in the world since Chernobyl 25 years ago.

The IFSN said there was no need to temporarily switch off the Swiss plants while the weaknesses were corrected.

The safety watchdog also called on Swiss federal authorities to ensure that specialised teams were available to back up power station staff in major emergencies.

Workers wearing protective suits and masks entered a reactor building at the stricken plant in northeastern Japan on Thursday for the first time since an explosion hit the facility a day after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, officials said.

Cooling systems for reactors and for fuel rod storage pools were damaged in the disaster, leading to overheating, according to authorities.

Switzerland suspended plans to replace ageing nuclear power plants days after the disaster in Japan and is examining several plans including a possible phase out of nuclear power, ministers have said.

© 2011 AFP

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