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Stress tests for EU nuclear plants

Stress tests on all nuclear plants in the EU will be carried out by the end of the year, the European Commission has said.

A voluntary accord struck at talks in Brussels is designed to bolster current high safety standards in the wake of the Japanese nuclear crisis, said EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger.

He was speaking after two-and-a-half hours of talks with experts from national nuclear safety authorities, nuclear plant operators and plant suppliers in the EU.

Some of the EU's energy ministers attended, but the UK was represented by chief nuclear inspector Dr Mike Weightman from the Nuclear Installation Inspectorate and Mark Higson, chief executive of the Office of Nuclear Development.

There was "general agreement", said the commissioner, on the swift introduction of stress tests to a common EU standard.

He said: "Over the course of the next week we in the commission will organise further meetings to come up with proposals for how and when stress tests with common standards and criteria can be carried out for purposes of safety in the light of knowledge gleaned from the terrible events in Japan."

He went on: "This is a reassessment of all potential risks - earthquakes, tsunamis, terror attacks, cooling systems and operational activities, hazards including power cuts in situ, requirements for back-up systems, and design structures of nuclear power plants."

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