Japan crisis sparks global nuclear reviews

A continuing crisis at Japan’s Fukushima 1 nuclear power plant has spurred nations around the world to review the safety of their own nuclear installations.

The European Union reached an agreement to conduct “stress tests” on the continent’s nuclear plants as it tries to draw lessons from the events in quake-hit Japan.

Amid soaring public concern on nuclear energy, the EU gathered ministers, national safety chiefs and nuclear industry figures for talks.

Energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger said the agreed tests would be conducted on a “voluntary” basis.

Around 150 reactors are scattered across Europe in roughly 75 nuclear power plants – some in seismic areas.

Mr Oettinger said officials will look at whether the reactors can resist earthquakes, tsunamis and terrorist attacks.

He said: “We want to look at the risk and safety issues in the light of events in Japan. We want to operate if possible with everybody on board.”

The tests will be completed in 2011 and will start as soon as guidelines are reached on the criteria, reach and extent of the checks.

Japan’s emergency has already prompted Germany to announce it will close down seven older reactors – perhaps permanently.

Italy and Poland have, for the time being, suspended their plans to sign on to nuclear energy.

Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin also ordered an urgent review of the future of Russia’s atomic energy sector.

“I request that the energy ministry, nuclear agency and environment ministry carry out an analysis of the current condition of the atomic sector and an analysis of the plans for future development,” he said.

Mr Putin’s remarks are the first time the Russian leadership has questioned the future of nuclear energy in the country.

Further afield, India has ordered safety checks on all its plants to make sure they can withstand an earthquake or a tsunami.

In Britain, there will be a review, but the Government is planning a new generation of nuclear power stations.

Energy Secretary Chris Huhne accused European governments of “rushing to judgements” over the safety of nuclear power in the wake of the Japan crisis.

But he also insisted he was right to order a UK safety review amid warnings from MPs it could hit investment of the proposed domestic plants.

“I think that in this country we have a good, long-standing tradition of trying… to base public debate on informed assessment,” he told the House of Commons energy and climate change committee.

“I know it can be frustrating in terms of those who want to come to more rapid conclusions but we should not rush to judgement.

“Let’s wait until we have got the full facts.

“I regret the fact that some continental politicians do seem to be rushing to judgements on this before we have had the proper assessment.”

Source: Sky News

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