Nearly half Europe's nuclear reactors of particular concern

Press release - March 21, 2011
Brussels, International — Nuclear safety is on the agenda today for special meetings of Europe's energy ministers as well as International Atomic Energy Agency officials following the crisis in Japan. This briefing details Greenpeace's view on proposed stress tests for nuclear plants, Europe's most worrying reactors and how we need not rely on nuclear energy to fight climate change.

Greenpeace EU nuclear policy adviser Jan Haverkamp said: “Our thoughts remain with those coping with the disasters in Japan. Europe should realise that it doesn’t take a major earthquake to cause a cooling-related nuclear crisis. About half Europe’s reactors are of particular concern. It remains to be seen whether the stress tests being talked about for nuclear plants will be more than a fig leaf for business-as-usual. So European governments should first insist on a shake up of shared nuclear safety rules and move us towards a nuclear-free future.”

Greenpeace’s view on nuclear stress tests

The European Commission and nuclear operators have a poor track record on transparency. Therefore, Greenpeace remains sceptical about proposed stress tests on Europe’s nuclear plants. Genuine tests should be compulsory, transparent, independent and go beyond current safety testing, which is now based on the lowest common denominator rules agreed by the International Atomic Energy Agency. They should also lead to the rapid closure of plants which fail this test.

Europe’s most worrying nuclear plants

Apart from the problems of dangerous waste and weapon proliferation, all nuclear plants carry safety risks. Earthquakes, including minor ones, are just one threat. Storms and technical problems have led to emergency situations in Swedish (Forsmark) and French (Blayais) nuclear plants. Greenpeace believes it is impossible to rule out all such threats and nuclear power should be rapidly phased out in favour of renewable energy.

Some European plants are of more concern than others, and are highlighted in the table below.




VVER440 Reactors

Russian design without secondary containment. More vulnerable to terrorist attack.

4 reactors Hungary

4 reactors Slovakia

4 reactors Czech Republic

Candu reactors

Canadian design with a design flaw that played an important role in the Chernobyl disaster. Rules in countries like Germany or France do not allow this design.

2 reactors Romania

Ageing reactors

Any reactor older than 30 years is of higher concern than others. Steel and welding seams experience fatigue under constant neutron bombardment, especially in the reactor vessel and  primary cooling circuit. Many such plants are operating beyond their scheduled lifetime.

Existing in Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Netherlands Sweden, Switzerland, UK and Spain

Reactors in seismic zones

Even minor earthquakes can cause power failure at nuclear plants as well as structural damage, especially in older reactors.

2 reactors in Romania

1 reactor in Slovenia

Bulgaria planning 2

Italy planning several

Countries that are preparing to extend the scheduled life of nuclear plants include Hungary, Czech Republic, Germany, France and Bulgaria.

Can Europe quickly phase out nuclear?

The Energy Revolution study by the German Aerospace Centre shows that Europe can move to 97% renewables by 2050. The study shows that we can cut the amount of nuclear power produced by more than half by 2020. This translates to 73GW less nuclear power, or about 75 reactors shut down, replaced largely by wind, biogas and solar generation.

The German renewables industry group BEE said on 16 March that renewables could more than fill the energy gap left by the phase-out of the seven recently suspended German nuclear plants.



Mark Breddy - Communications manager, , +32 2 274 19 03, +32 496 15 62 29

Jan Haverkamp - EU Energy Campaigner - Coal and Nuclear Energy, , +420 603 569 243, +32 477 79 04 16

Jack Hunter - Media officer, +32 2 274 19 15, +32 476/988 584