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The European stress test

Immediately after the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, the former EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger invited the energy ministers and representatives of EU member states’ national nuclear regulators and industry to consultations on responses to the accident in Brussels on 15 March 2011. At this meeting, all participants agreed on comprehensive safety assessments for nuclear power plants in the European Union, based on the following scenarios:

External hazards: 

  • earthquakes
  • flooding and extreme weather conditions

Loss of safety functions: 

  • successive loss of power supplies
  • loss of ultimate heat sink and combination of both incidents

Severe accident management: 

  • measures against and management of loss of core cooling function
  • measures to ensure containment integrity after core meltdown and
  • measures against and management of loss of cooling function in spent fuel pool cooling.

With its decision of 24/25 March 2011, the European Council invited the Commission and the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG) to conduct the EU stress test.

Switzerland and Ukraine also declared their willingness to participate in this stress test. It consisted of a review of plant design and an assessment of robustness to extreme initiating events such as earthquake and flood. The review included an evaluation of national reports, thematic hearings and missions to participating countries. 

With the stress test, an EU-wide peer review of all the European nuclear power plants, based on common criteria, was achieved, providing insights into their main safety features and plant-specific emergency measures on an unprecedented scale. 

The results of the peer reviews were adopted by ENSREG in April 2012. The final report was published together with the national reports of the 17 participating countries. A joint statement by ENSREG and the European Commission on the results of the stress test, the peer reviews and further steps is available at the ENSREG-Website. 

All EU member states' reports are available also there. The German nuclear power plant operators have published their reports on the EU stress test on their websites; relevant links are included in the annex to the German report on the EU stress test. 

Based on the results of the EU stress test, national action plans (NAcP) were drafted, setting out plant-specific measures. The plans and their implementation status were discussed by participating countries at ENSREG workshops in Brussels in 2013 and 2015. 

In future, mandatory topical peer reviews (TPRs) will be carried out every six years in the EU, during which member states will have the opportunity to discuss certain nuclear safety issues, report on the results of plant reviews and identify potential for improving the safety of their nuclear plants. The first round of TPRs will be held in 2018. Member states will produce the relevant national reports by the end of 2017. However, the responsibility for monitoring the facilities’ safe operation will remain at the national level.