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Nuclear Energy: EU’s ageing nuclear reactors pose significant safety risks – Dagmar Dehmer

It isn’t just far-off Ukraine that has its nuclear power concerns. The EU’s 128 nuclear power plants have an average age of 30.6 years and provide food for thought that is much closer to home than either Chernobyl or Fukushima. EurActiv’s partner Tagesspiegel reports.

The most dangerous nuclear power plants are to be found dotted across the continent, from the United Kingdom and France in the west, to Bulgaria and Ukraine in the east. The World Nuclear Industry Status Report confirmed that the advanced age of the European Union’s 128 atomic facilities is of great concern.

In Ukraine, its ageing nuclear reactors pose a substantial risk given the country’s economic uncertainty that has been caused by the financial crisis and civil war, meaning investment in its 15 power plants has not been forthcoming.

The most worrying incident came at the beginning of 2015, when the Zaporizhia facility in the south of the country, which is currently the largest plant in all of Europe, was forced to shut down its reactors due to fluctuations on the power grid. Austrian environmental organisation Global 2000 claimed that the near-disaster was a result of sabotage, with separatists from the Russian-annexed Crimea peninsula accused of blowing up an electricity pylon.

Age is also a significant concern for France’s oldest nuclear plant at Fessenheim, located on the German border. It has had its fair share of problems: in 2009, plant debris clogged its cooling ducts, in 2012, there was a small gas explosion and in 2015, one of its reactors was affected by a burst pipe. Most significantly, in 2014, the system had to be shut down due to issues with its crucial cooling rods. The incident was only reported a few days after it had occurred.

At another site near the German border, further north in Cattenom, the reactors are younger but still have an unenviable safety record. Fessenheim’s Alsatian cousin has reported 750 incidents reported so far. In 2012, authorities found that two of its reactors were missing components that would prevent coolant leaking. France has 59 nuclear power plants in total and they provide 75% of the country’s energy needs, making it the most atomic-reliant nation on earth.

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