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January 6, 2012

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Watchdog gives nuclear power stations ‘all-clear’ in stress tests

In a report submitted to the European Council, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has concluded that there are no major weaknesses in the design and resilience of the UK’s nuclear power stations.

In March last year, in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan, the European Council requested a targeted reassessment of safety at all European nuclear power plants, with a specific focus on the potential impact of extreme natural events on plant safety.

Licensees of the 33 operating or shutdown reactors in the UK within the scope of the reassessment programme have carried out the tests and the ONR has reviewed the results. Echoing the findings of a report published in October by HM Chief Inspector of Nuclear Installations Mike Weightman, the UK EC ‘stress test’ report confirms that the country’s sites have identified and made improvements to enhance safety by learning from events in Japan.

John Donald, a senior nuclear safety inspector at the ONR, said: “To date, no fundamental weaknesses in design and resilience have been identified at UK nuclear power plants, and lessons are being learnt from Fukushima to enhance safety, in line with our regulatory philosophy of continuous improvement.”

He continued: “Work is already under way to improve safety at UK sites, such as bolstering flood defences and enhancing coolant supplies. We have also asked licensees of UK nuclear power stations to consider resilience against events that have only remote chances of happening in the UK.”

Available on both the HSE’s ONR webpage and the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group website, the UK report will now be peer-reviewed by other European regulators, in a process that will run until June.

Meanwhile, having conducted equivalent stress tests of nuclear power plants in France, the French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) said the continued operation of its nuclear power plants “requires an increase in their robustness to extreme situations beyond their existing safety margins, as soon as possible”.

Along with measures such as the creation, by the end of 2014, of a ‘nuclear rapid response force’, comprising specialist crews able to assume control of a site affected by an accident and deploy additional emergency-response resources within 24 hours, the ASN has stressed the importance of social, organisational and human safety factors.

Head of the ASN André-Claude Lacoste said: “We must beware not to give in to the easy temptation to only consider nuclear safety as simply a collection of technical measures. Nuclear safety relies fundamentally on people. Renewal of licensee staff and skills is essential for safety.”

Individual country reports can be found at

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12 years ago

If this is a “clean bill of health” then I would like to see a report on a “sick” industry. The report demands changes to 19 nuclear power stations which will cost around £10 billion and which even then may not allow the safe shut down of a PWR. If the full costs of nuclear were to e charged to the operator, including waste management, decommissioning and insurance liability, then nuclear would be far too costly to consider and we would be moving towards a more sustainable energy system.