* Commission cannot force states to apply recommendations
* Says expects to propose new safety law next year
* Nuclear stress tests should not be a "one-off"
By Barbara Lewis
BRUSSELS, Oct 4 Nuclear regulators and operators
should act now to improve safety at nuclear power plants, the EU
energy commissioner said on Thursday, following a series of
inspections across the European Union.
The nuclear stress tests, carried out in the aftermath of
the Fukushima disaster, found safety improvements costing
anywhere between 10 billion $12.90 billion) and 25 billion euros
were necessary in European plants, according to a draft seen by
Reuters earlier this week.
"Nearly everywhere there is major potential for
improvement," Energy Commission Guenther Oettinger told
"We therefore think that we should talk together with
operators and regulatory authorities to act rapidly so that the
highest possible standards can be guaranteed very soon."
In addition, he confirmed the Commission would be proposing
new laws earlier next year, including on insurance and
One of the lessons of Fukushima was that two natural
disasters could strike at the same time and knock out the
electrical supply system of a plant completely, so it could not
be cooled down.
The stress tests endeavoured to protect against any repeat
of that series of events by establishing whether nuclear plants
can withstand natural disasters, aircraft crashes and management
failures, as well as whether adequate systems are in place to
deal with power disruptions.
Among the findings were that on-site seismic instruments
should be installed or improved in 121 reactors.
In addition, 24 reactors did not have a back-up emergency
room in case the main control room became uninhabitable.
LIMITS OF EU POWER
Because EU authorities do not have power to determine the
energy mix of member states, the stress tests were voluntary,
but Oettinger said they would not just be "put in a drawer".
"We are at the beginning of a new European safety dynamic,"
He confirmed the Commission would follow up with legislative
proposals early next year to enhance safety. The proposals would
include insurance and liability, but Oettinger said it was not
yet clear what that might mean for electricity bills.
Austria, which banned nuclear plants in 1974, said the
stress tests were "good, but not good enough".
"Our demand is very clear: retrofit nuclear plants or shut
them down," Austrian Environment Minister Niki Berlakovich told
reporters in Vienna, referring to the possibility of adding
Green member of the European Parliament Rebecca Harms said
the stress tests report had dodged the tough questions.
"One thing seems clear: this exercise has been orchestrated
to cause as little stress to the nuclear industry as possible,"
Harms said in a statement.
Asking about possible pressure from member states to change
the report, Oettinger told reporters there had been "absolutely
no political influence whatsoever".
($1 = 0.7751 euros)
(Additional reporting by Michael Shields in Vienna, editing by