Nuclear states rethink policy after flaws exposed
GOVERNMENTS around the world ordered urgent safety reviews of their nuclear power facilities last night as the crisis in Japan continued to escalate.
The EU will today host an emergency meeting of energy ministers and nuclear safety officials to discuss the situation at the 150 nuclear power stations within its territories. A spokesman for the EU said the aim of the hastily organised meeting was to get first-hand information about what contingency plans were in place should an emergency occur.
The Swiss government announced that it was suspending plans to replace its ageing nuclear power stations until security and safety measures could be carefully assessed.
Manmohan Singh, the Indian prime minister, ordered safety checks on all nuclear power plants to ensure they could withstand an earthquake or tsunami.
In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced a three-month moratorium on government plans to postpone by more than a decade the decommissioning of Germany's 17 nuclear reactors.
This could lead to the immediate switch-off of the country's two oldest plants, she said.
"If a country like Japan with its high safety norms and safety standards can apparently not prevent the nuclear consequences of an earthquake and a tsunami, then the whole world ... can't just go back to business as usual," she said.
In Britain, environment secretary Chris Huhne insisted the government would examine closely any lessons that were to be learnt from Japan's experience. The UK government is planning a new generation of nuclear power stations that are due to begin generating power by 2020. But critics last night said the plans should be put on hold until a major safety assessment had been conducted.
Andy Atkins, the executive director of Friends of the Earth, said: "We can't keep heading down the nuclear route until the lessons from this crisis have been learnt."
While most countries, including Britain, are not at substantial risk from earthquakes, experts have pointed out that it was the power failure following the Japanese tsunami that led to the crisis at the Fukushima plant.
Dr Paul Dorfman, a nuclear policy research fellow with the Rowntree Charitable Trust, said building nuclear facilities on the coast meant they could never be completely safe from flooding and other natural phenomena. (© Daily Telegraph, London)