Merkel to seek common EU nuclear safety standards

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 21, 2011 11:52 AM

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Saturday for the European Union to set common safety standards for nuclear power stations following Japan's crisis.

Merkel, who ordered the closure this week of seven old nuclear plants in Germany, said she would raise the issue at an EU summit on March 24-25.

In a podcast on her website, Merkel noted that the EU had set common standards for many things right down to the size of apples and shape of bananas.

"We could also talk about uniform safety standards for all European nuclear power stations because everyone in Europe would be affected to the same extent by an accident at a nuclear power station in Europe," she said.

Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen is considering drastic safety measures to be implemented at German nuclear plants which could make them commercially unviable, sources in Merkel's coalition said on Friday.

Roettgen discussed with coalition partners a ministry paper offering "preliminary thoughts" on possible standards that few of Germany's 17 nuclear plants currently fulfill, they said.

Merkel praised European Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger for summoning nuclear power plant operators and regulators to discuss safety after last week's earthquake and tsunami which caused the crisis at Japan's Fukushima complex.

"We have to decide what we can learn from this catastrophe," said Merkel, who suspended this week her nuclear policy which the coalition agreed only last autumn.

All seven plants, which began operating before 1980, will undergo safety checks during the three month moratorium. The opposition has accused Merkel of staging the policy U-turn to avoid defeat in a series of regional elections this month.

(Writing by David Stamp)