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People evacuating from area near the Fukushima nuclear facilities in Japan being tested for radiation exposure yesterday. AP Photo/Wally Santana

Switzerland puts new nuclear plant plans on hold

Events at Japanese nuclear facilities have raised concerns in Europe about the safety of nuclear energy production.

SWITZERLAND HAS HALTED ITS PLANS to build and replace nuclear plants after two explosions at Japanese facilities spread concerns over the safety of atomic energy.

Swiss engery minister Doris Leuthard said the suspension would affect all “blanket authorisation for nuclear replacement until safety standards have been carefully reviewed and if necessary adapted”.

Regulators had already approved the construction of new power stations at three sites after plans were submitted in 2008.

Leuthard said that now no atomic energy plants can be permitted until an expert panel has analysed the exact cause of the accidents in Japan and make any necessary recommendations for tougher safety standards “particularly in terms of seismic safety and cooling”.

Alarmed by the crisis in Japan, the EU has called for a meeting of nuclear safety authorities and operators tomorrow, to assess Europe’s preparedness in case of an emergency. Austria’s environment minister called for an EU-wide stress test to see if nuclear power stations are quake-proof.

Germany’s foreign minister called for a new risk assessment of his country’s nuclear power plants, particularly their cooling systems. A previous government decided a decade ago to shut all 17 German nuclear plants by 2021 but Chancellor Angela Merkel’s administration last year moved to extend the plants’ use by an average of 12 years.

- AP

Read: Reactor at Fukushima plant ‘totally exposed’ after cooling failure >

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