the european stress test for nuclear power plants

Effectiveness of the peer review process

In order to enhance credibility and accountability of the process, the EU Council stated that national reports should be subjected to a peer review process.35 Peer reviews will start in January and shall be completed by the end of April 2012.

A sound peer review process needs a detailed preparation of its actors, the reviewers. Regarding the short time frame, the immense workload and the limited number of experienced experts able to review the assessments of about 135 plants, it is by no means possible to prepare and proceed a sound in-depth-peer-review-process that could really be able to question the assessments of the different plants. The complexity of data, of calculation methods, of assumptions about the safety parameters and their interdependence within the system of a nuclear power plant is outstanding and nearly unimaginable for the public. There are a lot of very sensitive parameters that significantly influence the result of a risk assessment. A peer review is bound to trust most of these parameters that widely determine the safety of the plant under the level the review is looking at. 

It must also be taken into consideration that the peer reviews teams consist of the experts of the involved member countries. It is self-evident that to criticize well-known colleagues within an official process whose results shall be open to the public is always difficult. 

Under the given boundary conditions the review process is an instrument by which only evident deficiencies of applied assessment criteria may be identified. By this it will improve the quality of the whole process only to a limited degree.

35 Fn. 4, page 3 (downloadable document)