Sizewell: EU publishes report in to nuclear safety

STANDARDS of safety at nuclear power plants in Europe are generally high but there are still a number of shortfalls that need to be addressed, according to a latest report.

The European Commission yesterday released its findings following a series of “stress tests” performed on reactors throughout the EU - including Sizewell B.

The investigation was prompted by the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power station in Japan last year.

The European Council called for comprehensive and transparent risk and safety assessments of all EU nuclear power plants. The main aim was to assess the safety and robustness of nuclear power plants in case of extreme natural events - especially flood and earthquakes.

Commenting on the latest findings, commissioner G�nther Oettinger said: “The stress tests have revealed where we are good at and where we need to improve.

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“The tests were serious, and they were a success. Generally, the situation is satisfactory but there is no room for complacency. All authorities involved must work to ensure that the highest safety standards are in force in every single nuclear power plant in Europe for the safety of our citizens”.

In addition to recommending numerous plant specific technical improvements, the stress tests revealed that international standards and practices were not applied everywhere.

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It also identified other lessons that should be drawn from Fukushima which included calculating earthquake a flood risk based on a 10,000 year time frame - instead of the shorter time periods sometimes used, on-site seismic instruments to measure and alert of possible earthquakes, containment filtered venting systems to allow safe depressurizing of the reactor and a back up emergency control room in case the main control room becomes inhabitable.

National action plans with timetables for implementation will now be prepared by national regulators and will be made available by the end of 2012.

EDF Energy - which runs Sizewell B - had already conducted stress tests of each of its eight UK nuclear power stations as part of an earlier investigation by the UK’s Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR).

Dr Andy Spurr, the company’s managing director of nuclear generation said: “We are an industry that learns from experience in order to improve safety performance and safety margins.

“As such, through our review we have identified ways to enhance further our current robust position. We are already implementing these improvements in line with expectations.”

Among the plans is a new Emergency Response Centre for Sizewell B that will be built on a brownfield site on the outskirts of Leiston.

It should be ready by 2014 and will house back-up plant and equipment storage and office space in a bid to ensure the station is suitably resilient in case of an extreme natural event.

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