Concerns over nuclear safety in wake of terrorist attacks

The European Parliament debated in its plenary session on 22 October the issue of safety of nuclear plants and large industrial installation in case of a terrorist attack. Commissioner Vitorino told MEPs that the Commission is planning new safety measures including a ban on flights over nuclear power plants.

Commissioner Vitorino explained to worried MEPs that the Commission is putting forward several measures to promote air safety. An ad-hoc air safety working group has been set up to look at ideas such as preventing access to cockpits during flights. He recognised the public concern over a possible attack on nuclear power plants and industrial installations and underlined that new measures will be prepared including a possible ban on flights over such plants.

Some MEPs pointed to the fact that safety at nuclear plants is the responsibility of the Member States, whereas others demanded that a no-fly zone would be established around the EU’s two reprocessing plants at Sellafield and La Hague.

 

A recent study by anti-nuclear organisationWise-Parisindicated that a serious accident like a plane crashing into the La Hague reprocessing plant might lead to a massive release of radioactive substances with an impact of tens of times that of the Chernobyl accident.

French nuclear industry companyCOGEMArebutted the Wise study. The company stated that La Hague is a "chemical plant that can in no way be likened to a nuclear reactor, and its activity reduces the risk of accidents due to an airplane crash. The spent fuel present at the site is in fact less vulnerable there than it is in or near a nuclear power plant."

 

The 11 September attacks on the US have raised the spectre of a terror strike against nuclear power plants or large industrial installations. In France, the government decided last week to install anti-aircraft missile batteries close to the reprocessing plant at La Hague.

 

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