Across Europe, Japan crisis provokes nuclear rethink
The European Union will carry out 'stress tests' at all of its operating nuclear power plants and some countries may scrap plans for new reactors.
(Page 2 of 2)
Europe desires to be the premier Kyoto-adhering low carbon-emitting civilization, and its utilities increasingly forecast nuclear power as part of the mix. The relatively minor accidents since Chernobyl, promises of improved safety, and arguments of reduced global warming and coal-fired power have brought billions in EU loans for new nuclear projects.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Japan survivors
In Pictures Space photos of the day: Tsunamis
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
But the renaissance comes directly in the face of events at Fukushima Daiichi. Ms. Merkel ordered the shut down of seven plants, and EU energy chief Mr. Oettinger even hinted the “possibility” of a “foreseeable future” without nuclear reactors in Europe, though critics said he was speaking ahead of himself.
Still, amid Japan’s agony, Switzerland’s energy ministry said Tuesday it will put on hold three planned reactors.
Italian officials and representatives of its public utility Enel vowed Monday to move forward with a $25 billion joint French project to build four reactors. Italy voted no to nuclear in 1987. And now, despite government efforts to restart nuclear projects, with 63 percent of Italians opposed to reactors in one of Europe’s more severe earthquake nations, a June referendum could permanently scotch the project.
Poland is divided 50-50 on pending nuclear blueprints, but Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said his country will move forward with construction of two projects, one to open in 2020. “Japan’s disaster is not evidence that nuclear energy is unsafe; Poland does not have to fear an earthquake or tsunami,” he said.
Sweden, with 10 working plants, phased out nuclear energy after the Three Mile Island incident in the US, but last year brought nuclear renaissance ideas back on line. Now new public fears may again delay this.
In Brussels, much of the energy and focus on nuclear reactors has come from Austria and its environment minister, Nikolaus Berlakovich. Antinuclear views appear to transcend party politics in Austria, which banned reactors in 1978 after completing the building of one plant.
Yesterday’s “stress tests” and safety review adopted by the EU were Austrian proposals. Even Oettinger, when asked about details of the stress test, referred inquires to the Austrians. The tests, which are voluntary, will take place in the second half of the year. They will examine safety issues involving earthquakes, flooding, the age of the reactors and their cooling systems and ability to contain a meltdown.