Berlakovich wants nuclear power plant ‘stress tests’

People’s Party (ÖVP) Environment and Agriculture Minister Nikolaus Berlakovich suggested nuclear power plants in Europe should undergo “stress tests” in the wake of occurrences in Japan.Detonations at several nuclear power stations in the Asian country, which was rattled by an immense earthquake last week, could lead to a meltdown and significant radiation.Now Berlakovich – who met with the European Union’s (EU) environment ministers in Brussels, Belgium, today (Mon) – said “stress tests” must be carried out at all nuclear power plants in Europe to find out how safe they are.There are no operating nuclear power stations on Austrian soil, but several electricity companies in the country are also buying nuclear energy from international providers.A disused nuclear power plant is located in Zwentendorf, Lower Austria. The facility was set up in the 1970s. It never went into operation as 50.47 per cent of Austrians participating in a referendum – which was held only after the construction was finalised in 1978 – opposed the production of nuclear energy.Berlakovich stressed today Austria was “safe” from potential radiation in Japan. He added that many Austrians were “of course unsettled” by what has happened. The environment minister added the general consequences for the nuclear power industry were “dramatic”.”People (in Austria and Europe) need to feel safe. That’s why ‘stress tests’ must be carried out quickly,” he said.The minister argued the EU should agree on so-called stress tests for nuclear power plants since such a check for banks – which aimed to find out how badly financial institutes would be affected by another recession – proved to be a “success” last year.Berlakovich emphasised that the choice of energy technologies was a competency and responsibility of federal governments, but added: “This is an issue affecting the whole of Europe. That’s why the European Commission (EC) must become active.”Meanwhile, the Austrian Greens said the whole world should abandon nuclear power generation. Nuclear power plants in Europe, which are considered high-risk facilities, should be turned off as a first measure, the party suggested.The Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) also appealed to political decision-makers to stop generating nuclear energy.