Czech Nuclear Safety Institute: EU-approved stress tests should not present a problem

Temelín nuclear power plant

After weeks of debate the European Union on Wednesday agreed on the criteria for conducting "stress tests" on the bloc's 143 nuclear power plants. The tests which aim to avert an accident like that at Japan's Fukushima plant, will check nuclear plants’ preparedness in dealing with natural disasters such as earthquakes and flooding, as well as for man-made failures such as airplane crashes and explosions. We called Petr Brandejs, deputy head of the Czech Institute for Nuclear Safety to find out how the Czech Republic’s two nuclear power plants –Temelín and Dukovany would face up to the challenge.

“We have obviously accepted the plan of the European commission to perform the so-called stress tests, though frankly they are not really stress tests in the proper sense of the word but a reassessment of all possible safety aspects for each specific site of a nuclear power plant in light of the Fukushima accident – a check on how existing safety measures would react to an extreme situation, that is how preventative and mitigating measures would kick in after such an accident.”

We are talking about natural disasters – earthquakes, floods, man-made failures, airplane crashes and explosions. Can you confirm that adequate safety measures for all of that are already in place?

“Yes, permission to operate a nuclear power plant is issued on the basis of a so-called safety assessment report which contains a safety analysis of all potential threats for a given nuclear power plant. The stress-tests will practically repeat this safety assessment report, possibly adding a new combination of factors.”

Fukushima nuclear power plant after the accident, photo: CTK
Can you tell me when these stress tests will take place here?

“They are due to begin next month and it is expected they will be concluded by December of this year.”

You said that all necessary safety measures are already in place – what do they cover?

“For instance the safety measures concern a possible earthquake, though not floods because our power plants are not located in flood areas. The system would respond to an air-crash, heavy snowfall, extreme wind and generally extreme winter conditions. And also a total power blackout.”

If the country’s nuclear power plants are found lacking in any way would the authorities be prepared to take corrective measures or close them down if necessary?

“I should say here that our power plants are constantly being improved and upgraded with regard to safety. All events that occur in the world –not just Fukushima – are taken as a lesson to be learnt and measures to prevent a similar accident if it is relevant to conditions in the Czech Republic – are immediately approved and realized.

So you feel that the Czech Republic’s two nuclear power plants should have no problem passing these stress tests?

“I believe that our nuclear power plants will pass the tests very successfully.”