German leader urges common EU nuclear safety standards

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Saturday for common safety standards at all Europe's nuclear plants to avoid incidents such in Japan, which fears a reactor meltdown after a huge quake.

"We have standardised all sorts of things in the European Union -- from the size of apples to the shape of bananas -- and we could also really talk about common safety measures for all the nuclear centres in Europe," Merkel said in her weekly podcast.

Merkel said would put this on the table at the European Council meeting in Brussels late next week.

The March 11 earthquake and tsunami damaged Japan's Fukushima No. 1 plant, knocking out its cooling system and raising fears of a full-blown meltdown and radiation leaks.

On Monday Merkel announced a three-month moratorium on plans approved last year to postpone by more than a decade, until the mid-2030s, the date when the last of Germany's 17 nuclear reactors are turned off.

The following day she ordered the temporary shutdown of Germany's seven oldest nuclear reactors while authorities conduct safety probes.

Merkel also welcomed Saturday an agreement by European Union states to conduct voluntary tests in the second half of the year on Europe's 143 reactors to determine their ability to withstand earthquakes, floods and other disasters.

© 2011 AFP

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