While Japan struggles to deal with the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami – it was admitted over the weekend that Fukushima's Number 1 reactor had suffered a meltdown just 16 hours after the March 11 earthquake, farmers within 12 miles of the stricken nuclear power plant have been ordered to cull their livestock, and the exclusion zone has had to be extended again – European governments and the European Commission are bickering with the nuclear industry.
In March EU leaders ordered for a 'comprehensive and transparent risk and safety assessment' of Europe's 143 nuclear reactors in the wake of the Japanese disaster and called for 'the highest standards for nuclear safety [to] be implemented and continuously improved in the EU'. Christian Taillebois, director for external relations at Foratom - which represents 800 European nuclear companies – disagrees. He doesn't think the reactors should be tested for their resistance to terrorists attacks.
"Including terrorist attacks or cyber-attacks as stress-test criteria would mean the checks will take more time and authorities won't be able to make the results public," Taillebois said. "Our feeling is that citizens in Europe are waiting for the results and we should announce them without delays. People don't want to make things political and it's important to prove that nuclear plants in Europe are safe."
The citizens in Europeare waiting for the results, that is true. However, if nuclear lobbyist Taillebois were to get his way those citizens will only get half the story.
This strikes us as very strange reasoning, to say the least. Taillebois says 'it's important to prove that nuclear plants in Europe are safe'. How is that possible if terrorist attacks or cyber-attacks stress-tests aren't done? If you had severe pains in your chest but your doctor said he wasn’t going to check your heart, would you be happy about that?
Is there something more at work here? Taillebois assumes people will be happy if the nuclear industry just says Europe's reactors are safe from terrorism - that people will take the word of an industry not well known for its transparency. One wonders however what might be found if those reactors were tested for terrorist and cyber attacks. Are Taillebois and Foratom worried that these reactors might be vulnerable and want to avoid a scandal? And are France and the UK following the nuclear lobby and now obstructing talks because they fear many of their reactors might fail the test?
"People don't want to make things political..." Exactly. So let's stress test properly, thoroughly, independently and transparently and switch off every dangerous nuclear power station.
See also: Greenpeace urges the Spanish government and the Nuclear Safety Council to fully assume the nuclear power plant stress tests passed by congress (in Spanish).