the european stress test for nuclear power plants

Conclusions Part II 

One of the main lessons of the Fukushima accident is that the plant and its management had not been checked against well-known modern standards for nuclear safety or that the consequences of such a review had not been drawn. Most of the issues of the on-going “Stress test“ in the European Union can be deduced from existing codifications of nuclear safety requirements including publications of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Most of the issues that now seem to appear as new lessons of the Fukushima accident have been discussed in national and international forums before. This knowledge however has not been applied. The lesson is to apply the knowledge now. 

The on-going “Stress test“ is strongly limited in terms of its scope and its methodology, and is by far insufficient at revealing the deficiencies that are relevant for the safe operation of the European plants. It excludes most important areas from investigation that could lead to equivalent scenarios as Fukushima. 

This leads to a two-step-approach: 

  1. The current limited approach of the “Stress test“ should be improved by defining acceptance criteria that enables a classification of different grades of robustness. The requirements for the reports on the existing defence-indepth-concepts of the plants should be structured to give more transparency and to get a sound basis for comparing the safety provisions of the plants. More precise and more stringent requirements for the underlying data and documents should be defined. The reports and the main underlying documents should be open to the public. The results of the peer review process (questions and answers) should be completely documented and published.57 
  2. A comprehensive assessment is needed which includes the prevention of nuclear accidents and corresponds to the state-of-the-art technology in nuclear safety. The safety objectives of WENRA should be a basis for the missing comprehensive risk assessment. Advanced technical safety requirements that include benchmarks representing the state-of-the-art technology are available. For every safety objective the most advanced requirements that are applicable for operating reactors should be applied. As result of such a process a check-list that comprises of the most important benchmarks for a safety check of the defence-in-depth system would be a sound basis for the needed second complementary part of the “Stress test”. This methodology would provide a comprehensive risk assessment, which could inform the European Union about the safety status of its nuclear power plants.

57 See chapter II.2.4