Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Across Europe, Japan Crisis Provokes Nuclear Rethink

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Across Europe, Japan Crisis Provokes Nuclear Rethink

Article excerpt

The European Union will carry out 'stress tests' at all of its operating nuclear power plants and some countries may scrap plans for new reactors.

The nuclear crisis on Japan's northeast shores is throwing several nascent European nuclear projects into debate - in Poland, Italy, Sweden, and Switzerland - a day after European leaders agreed to "stress tests" on all current nuclear plants in the European Union.

EU Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger said a planned Bulgarian nuclear plant on the Danube in a highly seismic zone will be reassessed, and offered bleak comments on Europe's nuclear future.

Europe is the most nuclearized zone on the planet, with 143 reactors, and eight more under construction. Yet the EU has no formal nuclear policy, with each nation mapping its own plans.

After the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986 in what is now Ukraine, a powerful antinuclear lobby emerged in Europe, especially in Germany and Italy. But in recent years, visions of a "nuclear renaissance" here are supplementing a bright green European proclivity for wind- turbines and solar power.

Yet Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, capturing the public mood as Europeans watch the tops blown off of reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, calls the disaster "a turning point in the history of technology based society."

Critics complain she's pandering to voters. French leader Nicolas Sarkozy plans to raise nuclear safety as a major theme at the next G- 20 that France heads; pound-for-pound France is the world's nuclear leader, with 58 reactors.

Europe desires to be the premier Kyoto-adhering low carbon- emitting civilization, and its utilities increasingly forecast nuclear power as part of the mix. The relatively minor accidents since Chernobyl, promises of improved safety, and arguments of reduced global warming and coal-fired power have brought billions in EU loans for new nuclear projects.

But the renaissance comes directly in the face of events at Fukushima Daiichi. …

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