Some nuclear reactors in EU will fail tests: energy chief

17th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

The "stress tests" European nations will conduct on nuclear reactors will likely expose safety shortcomings in some of them, the EU's energy chief said Thursday, angering nuclear-friendly France.

Shocked by Japan's nuclear crisis, European Union states agreed this week 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.

"I think that the stress test that we want to conduct on all the nuclear reactors will show that not all of them meet the highest safety norms," EU energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger told Franco-German TV station Arte.

"One or more of the 143 reactors will struggle to satisfy the highest norms," Oettinger, a former minister-president of Germany's Baden-Wuerttemberg state, said without naming which facilities he had in mind.

Germany decided to temporarily shutdown its seven oldest nuclear reactors while it conducts a safety probe.

Oettinger's remarks jolted the government of France, home to the most nuclear plants in Europe, with 58 reactors generating 75 percent of the country's electricity.

"I am suprised and shocked by these remarks which could spark concerns among our citizens and discredit an industry," French Energy Minister Eric Besson told AFP.

"To state without evidence that some reactors will not pass safety tests, at a time we plan to organise them, is surprising to say the least," Besson said.

The French minister said Oettinger would have to "explain his comments" at an extraordinary meeting of energy ministers being held Monday in Brussels to discuss the impact of the events in Japan on the industry and safety tests.

Oettinger has voiced deep concerns about the escalating emergency at Japan's Fukushima power plant, saying the situation was "out of control" as engineers sought to prevent a meltdown following last Friday's earthquake and tsunami.

The energy commission even described the situation as an "apocalypse".

© 2011 AFP

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