EU defends Slovenia nuclear alert, promises more in future
European Union officials on Thursday defended their decision to send out an EU-wide alert after a minor leak at a Slovenian nuclear power plant and promised to do so again the next time there was an incident somewhere in Europe, dpa reported.
Wednesday's incident at the Krsko nuclear plant in south-western Slovenia was "a good example of transparency in the case of a nuclear event," and the European Commission "for the sake of transparency, encourages member states" to inform Brussels of such problems, a spokesman for the commission - the EU's executive - told journalists.
Such transparency "is the best way to reassure citizens," and from now on the commission will therefore inform the public "each time there is such an incident as this one," he added.
The incident, which occurred at 1738 local time (1538 GMT) in the plant close to Slovenia's border with Croatia, saw a quantity of coolant spill from the plant's primary cooling system. No radioactive material escaped into the environment, and the IAEA quickly classed the incident as the least dangerous category.
Nonetheless, as soon as the warning was received, the commission decided to pass on the alert to all 27 EU member states and Switzerland - the first time it has activated its emergency system since it was created in 1987.
That decision raised eyebrows, with environmental group Greenpeace calling it puzzling because the system - put in place after the Chernobyl catastrophe - was created to deal with major accidents.
Even the Slovenian government appeared to criticize the decision, saying in a statement that it "could have been understood as a warning of an incident with the possibility of serious consequences."
But the commission insisted that its policy had been right.
EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs "considers that nuclear should have as much transparency as any other industrial activity," his spokesman said.
The number of nuclear incidents in Europe is low, he said. Two were reported in 2005, two in 2006, none in 2007 and three this year.
The most recent involved the arrest of two men at the Oskarshamn plant in Sweden after a check revealed traces of explosive on the handle of a bag.