Stress tests? No Stress in Europe.

Anuj Wankhede

Japan was apparently warned about the dangers to the Fukushima reactors in case of the calamity like the one it faced last year. While one watches the horrors of radioactivity spreading all around and keeps our fingers crossed that the Reactors don’t collapse, there is another example of the utter disregard to safety and which will cause far more damage than can be imagined.

No, I am not referring to India, although a lot has been said about its plans at Koodankulam and Jaitapur. The establishment appears to have buried its head in the sand.

The BIG danger from EXISTING Nuclear facilities is in EUROPE.

Post Fukushima, the European Union ordered “stress tests” on the existing Nuclear plants and whether they would survive.

Why are we not surprised that the Nuclear establishment concluded that the plants are absolutely safe.

That’s the same thing supplier companies and governments tell you and me.

“Sleep easy. You are safe as houses.”
Till the day you discover there IS no house!

Who would have expected any different result?

Stress tests are just a new jargon for ‘Computer Simulation.’ Nothing more, nothing less.

These are the very same tests which are done prior to the design of the Reactors. The only difference is that in the “new” tests, additional information is fed into the computers to check what happens in case of sudden changes in operations.

Sounds good?

Well, now understand this.

The scientists can only program things which are KNOWN into the computer. How can a stress test check for the ability to withstand what is UNKNOWN? UNEXPECTED? A BLACK SWAN?

Nobody can predict all possibilities. And that is the real failure of stress testing.

Sure after Fukushima, the Europeans might have checked to see what happens in an earthquake plus another disaster in common. But could anyone imagine a reactor being brought to it’s knees because of FISH entering the coolant intake? Well, that’s just what happened about a month ago in the United States.

The point is can you predict the unpredictable in a stress test? Never.

Whether it is nuclear reactors or stock exchanges or banking systems, a stress test can at best reveal vulnerabilities in the system that need fixing.

The way the World Nuclear Establishment and the EU Energy ministers were congratulating each other, it appears they have not understood the gravity of the situation.

Have they factored in the less then 50 km (in some cases even 30 km) distance between European reactors and huge cities. In fact Antwerp, Belgium, is just 10 km away.

An independent report found even worse news. The exact SAME scenarios which caused a meltdown in Fukushima exist in Europe.

Instead of fixing them, a whole lot of simulations are carried out in the name of stress test and the results – obviously the suitable ones – are projected as successful.

Going by the independent report and confirmed by Greenpeace, the situation in Europe is far worse because of dense population and NO chance of evacuation.

Japan has had many past experiences with natural disasters. In a way, the Japanese were trained to expect the unexpected (although not to the extent of events that occurred last year).

Europe, on the other hand, has no such preparedness and given that same set of problems (like no backup systems, insufficient shielding of the core etc), the whole of the EU will bear the brunt of even one nuclear meltdown.

If Germany – a major EU country – can not only survive but get along easily, why not the others?

The answer probably lies in the mountain of money that banks and financial institutions in Europe and the US have at stake.

Major banks Citibank and BNP Parisbas are not the only ones who have invested in companies who have a stake in the nuclear industry. Perhaps even bigger stake is being held in these companies by private equity players. The sums run into hundreds and probably thousands of billions because money is invested through various holding corporations and flows through a web into the nuclear machinery.

Under pressure from banks, Japan has decided to restart two of its reactors despite over 70% of its people saying NO.

End of the day, Europe will face disaster not because of any natural disaster but because of the greed of the few on Wall Street.

Stress tests be damned, who cares? Because, it’s all about the money, honey!



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