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Energy ministers fail to agree EU stress tests for nuclear plants

Ministers held emergency met today to discuss nuclear safety and the crisis in Japan – but failed to agree on criteria for nuclear plant safety checks.

EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger at a media conference today in Brussels.
EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger at a media conference today in Brussels.
Image: AP Photo/Virginia Mayo

EUROPEAN UNION ENERGY MINISTERS have failed to agree on binding criteria for testing the bloc’s 143 nuclear power plants.

Germany’s Economy and Energy Minister Rainer Bruederle, who attended today’s emergency meeting, said that none of the ministers directly opposed such security checks, but that it was impossible to decide on binding requirements based on common criteria since there was such disparity between the different power plants.

Bruederle said at a news conference there will be a renewed push for strict tests at a summit of European Union leaders on Thursday and Friday.

He says common criteria are necessary since he is “not sure that everyone will proceed with the high demands that we are planning to use in Germany.”

Last week, Germany decided that that seven reactors that went into operation before 1980 would be kept offline for three months while Europe’s biggest economy reconsiders its plans to extend the life of its atomic power plants.

Bruederle acknowledged an immediate exit from nuclear power generation was impossible. “We need electricity supply to create economic progress,” Bruederle said.

France, a big user of nuclear power plants, remained a robust supporter of them. France’s Energy Minister Eric Besson said it was his “profound conviction that nuclear energy will stay in Europe and the world one of the core energies in the 21st century.”

But Austria led a group of five EU nations that questioned the use of continued nuclear energy.

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Today’s meeting was called because of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan that crippled its Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant. Traces of radiation are tainting vegetables and some water supplies, and China, Japan’s biggest trading partner, has ordered testing of Japanese food imports for radiation contamination.

- AP

Read: Germany shutting seven nuclear reactors – temporarily >

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