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Procedure : 2012/2830(RSP)
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Document selected : B7-0086/2013

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PV 11/03/2013 - 22
CRE 11/03/2013 - 22

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PV 14/03/2013 - 8.2
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Thursday, 14 March 2013 - Strasbourg
Risk and safety assessments of nuclear power plants in the European Union (‘stress tests’)

European Parliament resolution of 14 March 2013 on risk and safety assessments (‘stress tests’) of nuclear power plants in the European Union and related activities (2012/2830(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Commission communication of 4 October 2012 on the comprehensive risk and safety assessments (‘stress tests’) of nuclear power plants in the European Union and related activities (COM(2012)0571),

–  having regard to the follow-up fact-finding site visits organised by the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG) after completion of the stress tests review process with the aim of exchanging information with respect to measures taken, planned or under consideration at the site level to improve safety as a result of the stress test and of identifying good practices and noteworthy successes, as well as any lessons learned or difficulties encountered in implementing these measures,

–  having regard to the European Council conclusions of 24-25 March 2011, and in particular the appeal made to the independent national authorities in the EU to conduct a comprehensive and transparent risk and safety assessment of all EU nuclear plants, in the light of the lessons learned from the accident at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan,

–  whereas the ENSREG action plan was approved on 1 August 2012, ensuring that the recommendations and suggestions from the stress test peer reviews will be addressed by national regulators and ENSREG in a consistent manner,

–  having regard to Council Directive 2009/71/Euratom of 25 June 2009 establishing a Community framework for the nuclear safety of nuclear installations(1), which stresses that the national responsibility of Member States for the safety of nuclear installations is a fundamental principle and that the primary responsibility for supervising nuclear safety installations lies with the national regulators,

–  having regard to the ENSREG Report on the stress tests peer review adopted by ENSREG and the Commission, and to the associated joint statement issued by ENSREG and the Commission on 26 April 2012,

–  having regard to the nuclear disaster of 2011 at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan,

–  having regard to the European Council conclusions of 28-29 June 2012, and notably to the call issued to the Member States to ensure the full and timely implementation of the recommendations presented in the report published by ENSREG following the completion of the nuclear safety stress tests,

–  having regard to Council Directive 2011/70/Euratom of 19 July 2011 establishing a Community framework for the responsible and safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste(2),

–  having regard to the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community, and in particular Articles 2 and 30 thereof,

–  having regard to the question to the Commission on the comprehensive risk and safety assessments (‘stress tests’) of nuclear power plants in the European Union and related activities (O-000183/2012 – B7-0108/2013),

–  having regard to Rules 115(5) and 110(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas the report of Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy of 16 October 2012 on the proposal for a Council regulation establishing an Instrument for Nuclear Safety Cooperation (A7-0327/2012) calls for nuclear safety in third countries to reflect European safety standards;

B.  whereas the ‘comprehensive risk and safety assessments (’stress tests’) of nuclear power plants in the European Union and related activities’ were conducted in order to look into the preparedness of nuclear power plants (NPPs) for a number of extreme conditions;

1.  Takes note of the Commission communication on stress tests and their results, in the wake of the Fukushima accident; welcomes the efforts made by the Commission, especially through ENSREG, and by the national regulators to subject 145 reactors in the EU and 20 reactors outside the EU to a stress test procedure; emphasises the usefulness of this procedure and its character as an unprecedented exercise at world level; expects that the results of the stress tests will contribute to enhancing a nuclear safety culture in Europe, thus setting a leading example internationally; praises the efforts made to make the stress tests as transparent as possible;

2.  Takes note of the main conclusions of the peer-review report which highlights four main areas for improvement in Europe: (1) issuing Western European Nuclear Regulators Association (WENRA) guidance on the assessment of natural hazards and margins, taking account of the existing International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) guidelines; (2) underlining the importance of periodic safety reviews; (3) implementing recognised measures to protect containment integrity; and (4) minimising accidents resulting from natural hazards and limiting their consequences;

3.  Acknowledges that, following the stress tests, countries have started to implement or plan measures to improve the safety of their plants, in particular in the light of the lessons learned from Fukushima; welcomes the fact that an action plan was agreed between ENSREG and the Commission for the follow-up of the recommendations and that all actions undertaken to improve nuclear safety will be shared at European level; highlights the fact that on the basis of peer review the Commission identified measures to be considered at EU level; calls on all actors involved to ensure an appropriate and immediate follow-up to all the findings and recommendations contained therein, including identified best practice; recommends, with a view to this, confirming the leading role of ENSREG in monitoring the implementation of the peer-review recommendations on the basis of national action plans; asks for regular information from ENSREG on the progress made to be provided to the Commission, Parliament and the Council, and for Parliament to be informed and consulted annually regarding results, measures and plans in the area of nuclear safety;

4.  Recalls, however, that the stress tests initiated by the Commission and ENSREG were limited in scope and were primarily intended to assess the robustness and preparedness of NPPs in the face of extremely severe external events; considers, therefore, that the stress tests were primarily aimed at assessing the robustness and preparedness of NPPs against such severe external events and were not and could not be intended to replace the detailed safety reviews of NPPs which are carried out under the national competence of the Member States for assessing the nuclear safety of NPPs; urges the Commission, therefore, to include the overall robustness of NPPs (in particular with regard to possible cracks in pressure vessels) as a specific criterion in future stress tests;

5.  Emphasises that the stress tests are incomplete and that risks such as secondary events, material deterioration, human errors, specific flaws inside the reactor vessels and many other deficiencies were not taken in to account; underlines, therefore, that even if it is successful, a stress tests will not guarantee the safety of a nuclear plant;

6.  Notes that the present results reflect the participation of a number of non-EU countries, although sometimes with different methodologies and timetables;

7.  Urges the Commission and the Member States to encourage non-EU countries with nuclear power plants, in particular neighbouring countries, to apply the stress test procedure and to share their results; highlights the importance of strengthening international nuclear safety and security standards and of their proper implementation; encourages the EU to continue cooperating in this regard at international level, in particular in the context of the IAEA;

8.  Notes that the Convention on Nuclear Safety is a legal instrument aimed especially at promoting a high level of nuclear safety at global level, which obliges the Contracting Parties (including Euratom) to submit reports on the implementation of their duties for peer review at the regular meetings of the Contracting Parties held under the auspices of the IAEA; encourages the use of the Instrument for Nuclear Safety Cooperation (INSC) to promote, on the basis of the experience gained in Europe, implementation of the stress tests on an international scale;

9.  Recalls that the hazards of radioactive waste were once again highlighted by the Fukushima nuclear accident; notes that natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis could affect the safety of existing nuclear installations, or those under construction, in the Union and its neighbouring countries with high seismic and tsunami risk, as in the case of Akkuyu in Turkey; believes that, in addition to the measures to be implemented for NPPs, all appropriate action should be taken at Union and Member State level to ensure that radioactive waste disposal does not take place in identified high-risk areas; calls on the Commission to support the open and unbiased identification of the best facilities for storing radioactive waste as safely as possible; urges neighbouring and accession candidate countries to join the European Community Urgent Radiological Information Exchange Agreement (Ecurie);

10.  Calls on the Member States and the national regulators to implement the recommendations and suggestions of the ENSREG peer-review report, including identified best practice, and, where appropriate, to adapt their legislation to take account of the lessons learnt from the Fukushima-Daiichi accident;

11.  Calls on the Commission to submit proposals concerning the definition of the principles of nuclear safety regulation in respect of the nuclear power plants which are in operation, are being decommissioned or have already been decommissioned in the EU;

12.  Calls for the independence and transparency of supervisory authorities to be given the highest priority for as long as nuclear power plants remain in operation;

13.  Considers that there are different national approaches to assessing the effects of aircraft crashes on the safety of NPPs; notes that ‘aircraft crashes have not been considered explicitly as an initiating event in the safety assessments’, and that only their effects have been outlined in the stress test specifications; regrets, however, the fact that only four Member States have included such assessments in their stress test reports; notes, nonetheless, that the stress test specifications state that ’the assessment of consequences of loss of safety functions is relevant also if the situation is provoked by indirect initiating events for instance (...) airplane crash’; also notes that, given that this risk falls primarily within the area of Member States’ national security concerns and, therefore, sovereignty, an Ad Hoc Group on Nuclear Security (AHGNS) has been set up with the task of examining the issue in detail and publishing its conclusions; is aware that further exchanges between Member States are planned on that subject within appropriate forums such as the European Nuclear Security Regulators Association (ENSRA); asks all interested stakeholders, including Member States, the Commission, ENSREG, ENSRA and NPP operators, to work together in order to anticipate and agree a common approach to dealing with the risk of aircraft crashes, while recognising that this risk falls within the area of Member States’ national security concerns and sovereignty;

14.  Stresses that in the EU, 47 nuclear power plants, with 111 reactors between them, have more than 100 000 people living within a 30-km radius; regrets the fact that the scope of the stress tests was not extended to off-site emergency preparedness, despite the importance of this factor in limiting the impact of potential nuclear accidents on the population; welcomes the initiative undertaken by the Commission, with the support of ENSREG, of launching a study focusing on cross-border regions in the EU; asks the Commission, as part of the upcoming nuclear safety directive, to make recommendations on cross-border and in-country off-site emergency preventive measures; recommends, in this context, securing the involvement of the competent crossborder authorities at national and regional level, in terms of their safety action plans and experiences in information and communication processes where NPPs are located directly on national borders;

15.  Calls for the EU’s citizens to be fully informed and consulted on nuclear safety in the Union;

16.  Stresses that the availability of a skilled and experienced workforce is key to a strong nuclear safety culture; insists, therefore, that all necessary measures be implemented at EU and Member State level to promote and maintain high levels of skills regarding nuclear safety, waste management, radiation protection and emergency preparedness; calls on the Commission to encourage crossborder exchanges of experts and best practice, and stresses the importance of guaranteeing appropriate working conditions, in particular as regards working time, so as not to jeopardise nuclear safety;

17.  Recommends that the EU support international efforts to develop the highest possible safety standards, to be applied rigorously and developed in parallel with scientific progress and reflecting the legitimate concerns of citizens; highlights, in this context, the EU’s role in the Neighbourhood Policy as an instrument for cooperation on nuclear safety; urges the Member States and the Commission to take joint responsibility for strengthening international nuclear safety standards and their proper implementation, in close cooperation with the IAEA, the Espoo Convention secretariat and other relevant international organisations; invites the Commission to consider the IAEA post-Fukushima action plan and to submit an inclusive action plan with concrete arrangements for its implementation; urges the Commission and the Member States, in cooperation with the IAEA, to work constructively with countries that have failed to apply transparent nuclear safety stress tests, such as Belarus, Russia and Turkey, and to urge them to adhere to international safety standards and cooperate with international experts at all stages of the preparation, construction, operation and decommissioning of NPPs; believes, in that connection, that the EU must make full use of the expertise offered by international organisations and bodies;

18.  Takes the view that the EU should pursue close cooperation, in line with the Euratom Treaty, with the IAEA in relation to nuclear safety; stresses that the Council regulation establishing an Instrument for Nuclear Safety Cooperation should result in help being provided to, among others, Japan in the stabilisation and remediation of the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear site and in the areas of radiological protection and food safety at national level;

19.  Notes that on the basis of the stress tests the national regulators concluded that there are no technical reasons requiring the shutdown of any NPP in the EU; emphasises, however, that the stress tests did demonstrate that practically all NPPs need to implement site-specific safety improvements, since a significant number of technical upgrade measures have been identified, and that the implementation of the earlier measures is still to be completed; calls for the urgent implementation of the necessary upgrade measures, and points out that measures relating to nuclear security and safety must not be affected by the austerity measures imposed by Member States;

20.  Asks, in the interests of efficient policymaking and a transparent public debate, for the initial estimated total cost of the necessary safety improvement measures recommended following the stress tests for the 132 reactors operating in the EU (EUR 10 to 25 billion over the coming years) to be further substantiated by a more detailed cost analysis, to be carried out by the national regulators in cooperation with the nuclear operators and, if possible, linked to the choice of identified recommendations; considers that, whatever the costs of such improvements, they must be borne entirely by the nuclear operators and not by the taxpayer; calls on the Commission to monitor this issue closely, including in the context of its competences in competition policy;

21.  Stresses that an overall nuclear safety and security policy should encompass all nuclear sites, fuel and reactor safety, waste management and decommissioning, operational safety, sufficient human resources, continuous improvements in safety conditions for workers in this sector, and emergency preparedness, including crossborder off-site emergency plans, and should also guarantee the existence of strong and independent regulators;

22.  Considers that as long as the existing nuclear power plants remain in operation while others are being constructed, the level of nuclear safety in the EU, as well as in neighbouring third countries, must reflect as a main priority the highest safety and security practices and standards existing worldwide; insists on the need to ensure that those concerns are reflected along the entire life cycle of NPPs, thus including their eventual decommissioning; stresses above all that the costs incurred across their life cycle (choice of location, design, construction, activation, operation and decommissioning) should be taken into account in assessing the safety criteria of nuclear power plants; recalls that cost and risk analyses have a major role to play regarding the continued operation of plants;

23.  Considers that the management of all external hazards should follow an assessment process in line with the IAEA guidelines, as a minimum requirement, and must not underestimate non-technical aspects;

24.  Notes that differences between Member States can result in divergent approaches to nuclear safety regulation, but that they are all Parties to the IAEA nuclear safety standards and are all under an obligation to respect and implement the provisions of EU nuclear safety legislation;

25.  Acknowledges that, according to the Commission communication and the ENSREG peer-review report, the stress test exercise has demonstrated the positive contribution of periodic safety reviews as an efficient tool for maintaining and improving the safety and robustness of NPPs; notes, for example, ENSREG’s view that the re-evaluation of natural hazards risks and relevant plant provisions should be repeated at least every 5 or 10 years; recommends that periodic reviews should be based on common safety standards and that the revision of the legal framework on nuclear safety should include corresponding provisions;

26.  Welcomes the upcoming revision of the Nuclear Safety Directive, which should be ambitious in nature and should result in the opportunity to introduce major improvements in areas such as safety procedures and frameworks – in particular through the definition and implementation of binding nuclear safety standards that reflect state-of-the-art practices in the EU in technical, regulatory and operational respects – as well as in the role and resources of the nuclear regulatory authorities and, in particular, should boost the latter’s independence, openness and transparency, while also strengthening monitoring and peer review; stresses that the revision of the nuclear safety legal framework should take account of the ongoing international work being carried out, e.g. at IAEA level;

27.  Asks the Commission to come up with a proposal to guarantee the absolute effective functional independence of national nuclear regulatory authorities from any body or institution promoting or operating nuclear power;

28.  Recognises the importance of implementing the recommendations in close cooperation with nuclear safety authorities, while assessing the extent to which the scope of the periodic safety review should be extended; reiterates the need for close crossborder cooperation and exchange of best practice on these matters, as well as for the coordination of information exchange; believes that, at the same time, crossborder safety and supervision guarantees must be ensured; considers that, in this respect, people living within 50 km of an NPP must be taken into account, and that where a majority of inhabitants in a neighbouring Member State are affected, the responsible authority of that Member State must be involved in all decisions too;

29.  Considers that the Member States should, with the participation of the Community, promote suitable information and awareness-raising campaigns in order to inform citizens of the need for and benefits of stress tests;

30.  Welcomes, in this context, the Commission’s intention to propose legislative and non-legislative instruments in the area of nuclear insurance and liability; recalls that nuclear civil liability is already subject to international conventions (Paris and Vienna); believes, however, that nuclear operators and waste licensees should be required to have all financial means in place, through insurance and other financial instruments, to enable them to fully cover all costs for which they are liable in respect of damage caused to people and the environment in the event of an accident; calls on the Commission, in this connection, to come forward with proposals on the matter by the end of 2013;

31.  Calls on the EU and its Member States to treat nuclear power in the same way as any other energy source under the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, in the interests of democracy, involvement of the European Parliament, transparency and full public access to information;

32.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Commission, the Council, the European Council and the national parliaments.

(1) OJ L 172, 2.7.2009, p. 18.
(2) OJ L 199, 2.8.2011, p. 48.

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