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19 nuclear plants need safety work

European energy watchdog says each needs to improve earthquake and flood prevention

FRENCH nuclear power stations have been singled out in a European Commission report looking at plant safety in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.

In all, 19 French plants have been labelled as needing significant short-term improvements to meet new standards - with the bill for each ranging from €100-€200million. Each needs to fit proper earthquake monitoring equipment.

The total repair bill is expected to hit €25billion for the 134 reactors across Europe.

Singling out France is not surprising given its overwhelming reliance on nuclear power, which makes up just short of 80% of its electrical energy needs. It has 58 nuclear plants, managed by EDF, and each will need some work to meet standards.

The report has not yet been published but German newpaper Die Welt obtained a working copy which said: "On the basis of the stress test results, practically all nuclear power plants need to undergo safety improvements."

No plant closures are recommended in the report.

EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said in a statement after the leak: "Generally the situation is satisfactory but there is no room for complacency. We must work together to ensure that the highest safety standards are in force in every single nuclear power plant in Europe."

However, he also admitted that there were "hundreds of shortcomings" with the report highlighting that two plants - Olkiluto in Finland and Forsmatk in Sweden - could not restore any power to safety equipment within one hour of a blackout.

In France, 19 plants have been told to improve earthquake protection and their resistance to flooding and even a plane crash. The report makes a point that "before the Fukushima accident the French safety philosophy did not consider that a severe accident can be caused by an extreme external event".

Each of the 19 was also accused of failing to provide adequate protection for safety materials in the case of an accident.

France's oldest plant, at Fessenheim (Haut-Rhin), plus Cattenom (Lorraine), Chooz (Ardennes) and Tricastin (Vaucluse), were also put under special investigation by the safety team. The team said accident plans were not good enough at Cattenom and Chooz.

On a plus note, every French plant had hydrogen/oxygen recombiners fitted - which would have prevented the Fukushima explosion.

In the UK, Dungeness and Hartlepool stations must build a new stand-by emergency control room to cover for the possibility of high radiation making the main room.

President Hollande has said that Fessenheim will close before the end of 2016.
Photo: Stefan Kühn

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