ASN is very pleased with the agreement reached on European "stress test" specifications
On Wednesday, 25 May, the Chairman of ENSREG, Andrej Stritar, accompanied by EU Energy Commissioner Günter Oettinger, announced that an agreement had been reached between the Nuclear Safety Regulators of the 27 EU Member States and the Commission with regard to stress tests for European nuclear power plants. These audits can be officially launched as of 1 June 2011.
To recap, in response to events in Fukushima, the European Council, when it met on 24 and 25 March, stated the following in its conclusions:
“The safety of all EU nuclear plants should be reviewed, on the basis of a comprehensive and transparent risk assessment ("stress tests"); the European Nuclear Safety Regulatory Group (ENSREG) and the Commission are invited to develop as soon as possible the scope and modalities of these tests in a coordinated framework in light of the lessons learned from the accident in Japan (…), making full use of available expertise (notably from the Western European Nuclear Regulators Association - WENRA); the assessments will be conducted by independent national authorities and through peer review; their outcome and any necessary subsequent measures that will be taken should be shared with the Commission and with the members of ENSREG and should be made public; the European Council will assess initial findings by the end of 2011, on the basis of a report from the Commission.”
At the request of the European Council, WENRA therefore very quickly drew up draft specifications, shared by the European Nuclear Safety Regulators, which it then made public for the purposes of consultation and sent to ENSREG (European Nuclear Safety Regulatory Group) on 21 April for examination.
At its meeting on 12 and 13 May, ENSREG – of which the European Commission is a member – reached agreement on the European specifications. The agreement was signed on 25 May 2011, once the European Commission had rallied to the position of the Safety Regulators.
The main additions made to the technical work accomplished by WENRA include provisions regarding the time frame for carrying out the stress tests, the peer review procedures and transparency.
The specifications are accompanied by a declaration in which the Safety Regulators and the European Commission define the scope of the stress tests and their application across the EU. While it is agreed that these audits will cover the consequences of any type of event, it is specifically stated that issues relative to preventing security risks – which do not come within the remit of the Safety Regulators or the European Commission, and which were not included in the European Council’s Conclusions in March – should be dealt with by the Member States through a group set up for that purpose.
These specifications imply carrying out a great deal of work in a short space of time.
ASN is very pleased that, thanks to the existence and efficiency of the Safety Regulators network at European level and the record of constructive cooperation between them, it has been possible to agree, in such a short space of time, on a unified approach to the safety assessments to be carried out across Europe.
For its part, ASN would remind readers that complementary safety assessments (évaluations complémentaires de sûreté, or ECS) were launched in France at the beginning of May and that these are in line with the European specifications.
ASN would remind readers that these ECS assessments apply to all nuclear facilities in France as well as encompassing issues related to organisational and human factors and to subcontracting.
Last, ASN wants to emphasize the fact that, as has been the case for the accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, it will be a decade or so until we have comprehensive and in-depth feedback on the accident at Fukushima.