Dutch ‘ill-prepared’ for cross-border nuclear accident

Investigation by the Dutch Safety Board raised concerns over Belgium’s ageing Doel and Tihange nuclear reactors

THE HAGUE: The Netherlands must boost cooperation with neighbouring Belgium and Germany to better prepare for any cross-border nuclear power accident, Dutch safety officials warned Wednesday.

That was the conclusion of an investigation by the Dutch Safety Board (OVV), amid rising Dutch concerns over Belgium’s ageing Doel and Tihange nuclear reactors, which lie in a densely-populated area just across the southern Dutch-Belgian border.

The OVV also included the Borssele nuclear power plant, in the Netherlands, and Germany’s Emsland nuclear power plant in its 19-month probe.

“Cross-border cooperation in a number of areas has to be improved, so that parties are better prepared for the eventuality of a nuclear accident,” the report concluded.

Authorities also needed to “pay greater attention to society’s concerns,” said the 193-page report published in Dutch and English, along with shorter summaries in French and German.

It was “remarkable that the Dutch central government has until recently paid very little attention” to providing “information to the public about the potential consequences of a nuclear accident,” the OVV added.

In June 2016, the Tihange 2 nuclear reactor was automatically shut down following a motor failure in a non-nuclear part of the plant.

That was just one in a series of incidents including cracks and unsolved sabotage, which led Dutch MPs to demand the government push for the closure of the two Belgian plants, backing similar calls from Germany and Luxembourg.

The OVV insisted, however, that the risk of any nuclear accident was “small” due to “stringent safety requirements”.

The investigation “did not focus on whether the nuclear power plants are safe”, but on how all the countries worked together, the final report stressed on Wednesday.

It found the three neighbours are “not well prepared for dealing with bottlenecks that might result from linguistic and cultural differences”.

Proper communication between all three countries in the event of a nuclear accident “is paramount” to prevent “conflicting information,” it warned.

They also needed to align their crisis management to “reflect the transboundary nature of nuclear accidents,” OVV said, insisting current Dutch government plans needed to be overhauled.

It also called for joint emergency exercises and drills to be stepped up, warning that so far only a “limited” number had been carried out.

Even though the Doel 2 and Tihange 3 reactors are now over 40 years old, their operational life was prolonged in 2015 for another 10 years.


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