the european stress test for nuclear power plants

Independence of the experts

Independence of the operators

The “Stress test“ specifications require a report of the operators. This report is the most important basis for the final national report that shall be authorized by the nuclear authority of the affected member state.33 

It is the natural interest of the licensee to operate his/her plant as long as possible and under the best economical boundary conditions. The operator therefore has the natural interest to demonstrate that his/her plant is operating safely and does not need costly backfitting measures. The experts of the operator who are responsible for delivering his/her report in this respect are not independent.

Independence of the authorities

The goal of the “Stress test” is to prepare a paper that can be communicated by the European Union as the sound result from a common assessment of the safety of the European nuclear power plants. It will be authorized by ENSREG and the Commission together with their conclusions. 

The problem is that the Commission does not have any independent technical competence among its staff, i.e. people able to assess the safety of nuclear power plants. Therefore it will be ENSREG that will draw the conclusions. ENSREG was created to give technical guidance in particular. Not including the members of those countries without nuclear power plants the ENSREG consists mostly of the leaders of the nuclear authorities of the concerned countries with nuclear power plants. Therefore the ENSREG is not a group that could assess nuclear safety by itself. For a European report on nuclear safety the whole expertise of the authorities and their Technical Support Organizations on the national level are needed. 

In the past these experts have legitimated the operation of the power plants under their supervision by giving the license and by issuing other acts admitting the plant’s operation. Hand in hand they have informed the public that the plants were operating safely. With the “Stress test“” they have to ask themselves whether they have not done enough in the past. They have to review their own practice, their own convictions and statements about safety and about acceptable risks. The specifications are addressing this problem: 

“ln order to enhance credibility and accountability of the process the EU Council asked that the national reports should be subjected to a
peer review process..

Members of the team whose national facilities are under review will not be part of that specific review.” 34

33 Fn.4, page 3 (downloadable document)

34 Fn.4, page 3 (downloadable document)