RSK Publishes Safety Review Report for German Nuclear Plants

The Reactor Safety Commission (RSK) and the Federal Minister for the Environment Norbert Röttgen have presented the results of RSK’s safety checks of all 17 German nuclear power plants.  The 116 page report does not contain a specific recommendation whether or not to close down for good the seven oldest nuclear power plants or the Krümmel nuclear power plant near Hamburg. Execept for Krümmel, these plants have been temporarily shut down in the wake of the moratorium.

RSK had been asked to for the report after the nuclear accident in Fukushima and the German government’s subsequent 3-month moratorium on the nuclear power extension adopted last autumn.

With the moratorium running out on 15 June 2011, the report has been eagerly awaited.  Even before its publication, the RSK’s work was criticised. The head of the Socialist party, Sigmar Gabriel, and the Justice Ministry of the state of Schleswig-Holstein, the state’s nuclear power supervisory authority, who both called the time limit for the safety inspections insufficient. The report itself indeed contains a number of caveats, pointing out that the inspection time has been very short.

In line with a request by the Federal Ministry for the Environment of 17 March 2011, RSK conducted the safety inspections in view of the events that lead to the Fukushima nuclear accident. RSK carried out a robustness test of the German nuclear power plants, but has not evaluated whether current design limits need to be changed.

RSK evaluated the robustness with respect to natural events affecting the plants, station black-outs and failure of the cooling system, precautionary and emergency measures as well as man-made events effecting the plant, e.g. plane crashes. For plane crashes, RSK classifies the plants into three robustness levels:

  • Level 1: Plane crash of a Starfighter or similar commercial plane
  • Level 2: Plane crash of a Phantom or similar middle-sized commercial plane
  • Level 3: Plane crash of a large commercial plane

The commission found that based on the submitted evidence none of the German nuclear power stations can presently withstand a level 3 plane crash, a large number of plants can withstand a level 2 crash, others only a level 1 crash, and that some 1 cannot presently withstand a level 1 crash. However, the commission does not exclude that the plants can fulfill at least level 1 or higher requirements  if certain measures are taken.

Source: Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Protection and Nuclear Safety

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