The terrible consequences of the Fukushima nuclear disaster are far from being adequately dealt with, but unfortunately, politicians continue to put the nuclear industry’s interests before the wellbeing and safety of the public.
Last week European Union energy ministers started considering the results of “stress tests” performed on Europe’s nuclear reactors - tests that were supposed to assess the safety of plants in the event of a disaster. To bring a large dose of reality to these tests, Greenpeace released a report written by independent experts that finds the testing of these reactors is mired in flaws, blind spots and complacency.
Given that there are more than 100 reactors operating in Europe, none of which should be considered safe, and that tens of millions of people live within 75km of these reactors, the assessment of the risks is crucially important.
But some of the findings in our report are disturbing. It has been just 15 months since the Fukushima disaster and yet it seems the officials conducting the stress tests have very short memories. The report finds that:
Little attention has been paid to multiple-reactor failure like that at Fukushima, or multi-installation failure, such as a communication breakdown likely in the chaos of a nuclear disaster. Multiple disaster scenarios that gave birth to the tests were omitted and most member states refused to analyse the consequences of airplane crashes leading either directly, or indirectly (planes crashing nearby) to nuclear disaster.
In other words, tests that were called for because of what happened at Fukushima have, in fact, ignored what happened at Fukushima. And yet the parallels between European reactors and those at Fukushima are startling.
The independent experts found alarming shortfalls in back-up power for nuclear reactors (just like at Fukushima), that reactors are incapable of handling challenging earthquake or flood conditions (just like at Fukushima), and that radiation shielding is woefully inadequate in dangerous spent fuel storage facilities across the continent (just like at Fukushima).
Evacuation plans in the event of a nuclear disaster were not considered by the stress tests. This is despite the fact some European nuclear reactors are 10km from cities such as Antwerp in Belgium. What’s the word for that? Kafkaesque? Orwellian? In any case, it is certainly dangerous.
Check out our interactive map to see how close you, your family and your friends might be to one of Europe’s reactors, or to a reactor anywhere else. You will see the risks EU officials are happy to turn a blind eye to as they continue to protect the interests of an already powerful business sector.
They don’t seem to be even remotely interested in trying to restore nuclear power’s shattered reputation. Perhaps they’ve even realised that this is impossible.
So where does this leave us? It’s easy to feel powerless in the face of a vast organisation like the European Union, but there are things you can do.
If you live in Europe, you can contact your Member of the European Parliament (you can find out who they are here) and let them know what’s happening. If you live in a country outside Europe that has nuclear power, is your government also conducting stress tests? Are they rigorous and thorough? Be a detective. Be an activist. Tell your elected representatives that a better, sustainable future is possible without nuclear power.
(For a copy of the full report, click here. Our briefing 'Nuclear Stress Tests - flaws, blind spots and complacency' is available here.)