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Remit of European nuclear stress tests highlighted

The European Commission has published details of the stress tests of Europe’s nuclear facilities which are due to start by 1st June.

The stress tests are a set of additional safety criteria drawn up in the light of the nuclear accident in Fukushima. These EU wide tests will be in addition to safety standards already in place at national level. Their aim is to assess whether the safety margins used in the licensing of nuclear power plants were sufficient to cover unexpected events.

The aim is to learn from what happened in Japan and help ensure that a similar accident cannot happen in Europe. One of the most important lessons to be drawn is that the unthinkable can happen – that two natural disasters can hit at the same time and knock out the electrical power supply system completely. In Japan, the power plant withstood the earthquake but the tsunami interrupted the power supply which is necessary to cool down fuel elements. If they are not cooled down, there is a risk of a core meltdown with leakage of radioactivity and radiation getting into the soil and the water.

The stress tests will assess whether the nuclear power plant can withstand the effects of the following events:

1. Natural disasters: earthquakes, flooding, extreme cold, extreme heat, snow, ice, storms, tornados, heavy rain and other extreme natural conditions.

2. All man-made failures and actions. Such as plane crashes and explosions close to nuclear power plants.

Irrespective of the cause, power plants have to prove that they have enough back-up power systems in place in case the power supply is interrupted. They should assume that power is completely lost for several days. They also have to describe what happens if the first back-up-system does not work.

•Date: 26th May 2011 • Region: UK/Europe •Type: Article • Topic: Business continuity testing

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