January 2015 – NNWE believes in safety first

I was interested to see a Bloomberg report before Christmas about the concerns of United States Senators Barbara Boxer and Edward Markey about American attitudes towards European proposals to improve nuclear safety.

These two respected Senators attempts to persuade their compatriots to adopt a more urgent response to the challenge of climate change have won respect outside their own country.

They wrote to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission last month expressing “serious concern” about American resistance to the European proposals which would compel nuclear operators both to prevent accidents and also to mitigate the effects in the event of an accident occurring of radioactive contamination. The treaty change would require upgrades at existing plants. Since more than half the world’s reactors are now more than 30 years old some of these upgrades could be expensive.

By contrast Russian opposition to these proposals appears to be diminishing. According to Bloomberg, at a private meeting of nuclear diplomats last month, Russia changed its stance, abandoning previous opposition to tighter international rules – albeit its proposal does not commit to compelling companies to undertake costly retrofits, instead allowing the financial burden of measures to be taken into consideration.

Although these reports have not been officially confirmed they are encouraging. Safety is the first principle of NNWE and it is pleasing that European and Russian attitudes to the overriding importance of safety are getting closer.

Around the world, in the aftermath of the Fukushima accident four years ago, those countries where nuclear power stations operate have wrestled with the challenge of boosting safety standards. France has determined it will cost €10 billion to implement the necessary safety measures on its fleet. But in America Senator Boxer did not mince her words, stating bluntly “some reactor operators are still not in compliance with the safety requirements that were in place before the Fukushima disaster. This is unacceptable.”

At NNWE we believe that convincing the public that safety is the paramount consideration is the first and essential step towards winning wider support for a new generation of nuclear power stations.