EU plans nuclear clampdown, France may profit

Wed Mar 23, 2011 9:55am EDT

* Summit of EU leaders to demand nuclear stress tests - draft

* Rules to benefit France's 'next generation' EPR reactors

BRUSSELS, March 23 (Reuters) - European leaders look set to adopt tough measures on nuclear safety this week, a draft paper seen by Reuters showed, a move that could benefit France as it seeks to create a selling point for its advanced EPR reactors.

European governments have swiftly reviewed their nuclear policy in the wake of Japan's March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which crippled the Fukushima power plant and released radiation into the environment. [ID:nL3E7EM3EM]

Germany quickly suspended operations at seven ageing nuclear plants; Austria demanded pan-European 'stress tests'; Italy announced a one-year moratorium at new plants, and Bulgaria froze its Belene nuclear project near a quake zone.

France, a major exporter of nuclear technology, has advocated the safety aspects of its next generation EPR reactors as it competes for business on international markets.

A major clampdown on nuclear safety could translate into new revenues for French reactor maker Areva CEPFi.PA, which says its latest generation plants are safer than older technology.

"The safety of EU nuclear plants should be reviewed, on the basis of a comprehensive and transparent risk and safety assessment -- stress tests," said a draft declaration prepared for EU leaders to sign at a summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.

The draft also said stress tests should be developed as soon as possible, and make full use of experts -- notably from the Western European Nuclear Regulators' Association (WENRA).

France has already backed WENRA -- which seeks to spread best practice in nuclear safety -- as a basis for common security rules, at an emergency meeting of European energy ministers earlier this week. [ID:nLDE72K0EI]

"The WENRA can be an interesting base to work on this," French industry minister Eric Besson told reporters after the ministers' meeting, calling for WENRA's "third generation security objectives to be spread across Europe".

"With the EPR, France already has a third generation product so we have a number of assets when we talk about the future of the nuclear industry," he added.

(Reporting by Pete Harrison and Julien Toyer, editing by Rex Merrifield and Keiron Henderson)

FILED UNDER: