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World leaders set to conduct nuclear tests

media One of the oldest nuclear reactors in Germany, which is set to shut down … Reuters / Alex Grimm

In the wake of Japan’s nuclear fallout, world leaders are upping security measures of nuclear energy plants at home. France, Germany and Russia all say they will review their country’s standards of nuclear safety. The European Union also agreed to conduct “stress tests” on the continent’s nuclear power plants.

Guenther Oettinger, the EU energy chief, said from Brussels that the tests would be conducted on a voluntary basis. He said that the 153 reactors across the continent would be checked for their ability to resist earthquakes, tsunamis and terrorist attacks.

The agreement was reached during a meeting organized by Oettinger, which included ministers, national nuclear safety chiefs and industry leaders.

France announced separately that it will check the conditions of every one of its 58 nuclear power reactors, Environment Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet told parliament on Tuesday in Paris.

The minister made the comment after two blasts and a fire exploded at Japan’s Fukushima atomic power plant on Tuesday, which caused radiation levels to skyrocket to dangerous levels.

France is Europe’s biggest user of nuclear power, with 58 reactors in 19 power plants across the country. Nuclear energy provides around 75 percent of the country’s energy.

Germany said on Tuesday that it would temporarily shut down seven of its 17 nuclear reactors in order to conduct safety probes. Reactors in operation before the 1980s are intended to remain idle during a three-month moratorium.

Germany planned to be nuclear-free by 2020, however President Angela Merkel postponed the decision last year until the mid-2030s.

In Russia, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ordered an urgent review of the country’s atomic energy sector. Speaking from Moscow, Putin said that he expected results from the investigation within one month.

Russia remains one of the world’s most significant producers of nuclear energy and a major source of electricity within the country, even after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear meltdown that contaminated huge areas of present-day Russia.

The nuclear disaster in Japan has prompted governments in Britain and Italy to take another look at nuclear energy in their respective countries.

Meanwhile, Poland has vowed to press ahead with the intended building of its first nuclear power plants. And earthquake-prone Armenia insisted Tuesday that its Soviet-era nuclear power station was safe, amidst pleas by the European Union to shut it down due to safety concerns.



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