Europe may look to centralise nuclear safety

Nuclear safety regulators are seeking to further increase power plant safety margins following Fukushima, according to a senior European Union (EU) regulator.

Its led to speculation that legislation may be drawn up to provide centralised EU nuclear regulation and enforcement.

It had been felt previously that margins could be cut to boost plant efficiency, said Andrej Stritar, chair of the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group, at a European Nuclear Forum meeting organised by Marketforce & ASI. "There is a change of philosophy," he told Utility Week.

He said that it was unclear if the voluntary stress tests of plants after Fukushima would lead to legislation for centralised EU nuclear regulation and enforcement. Few governments are likely to want to cede their nuclear safety sovereignty, said Mr Stritar.

"We might get legally binding pieces of legislation that might be mean more than just basic principles," but it would take a long time, he said.

Other possibilities included harmonised licensing of plants and activities, harmonised emergency arrangements and national regulators with more power and responsibilities.

Stritar praised bottom-up changes to plants: "This is the way to improve; better than pressure from the top."

Stress tests reports are now being peer reviewed and the European Commission will present conclusions in June.

"There is some degree of scepticism about some of the reports," said Philip Lowe, director general of the commission's energy directorate. The varied length of the reports seemed to reflect the capacity of regulators and the rigour of risk assessment, he said.

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