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EU to Discuss Nuclear Safety Tomorrow After Earthquake in Japan

The European Union called a meeting of the bloc’s energy ministers, power companies and regulators for tomorrow to discuss nuclear safety as Japan struggles with reactors damaged by an earthquake.

Three days after a record 8.9-magnitude temblor, Tokyo Electric Power Co. is flushing three reactors at its Fukushima plant with water to avoid a catastrophic release of radiation as the station’s cooling systems failed and a blast tore through a containment building.

The meeting tomorrow, called by EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger, will be a “comprehensive safety check,” said Helen Kearns, a spokeswoman for the European Commission, the EU executive in Brussels. Nuclear-power stations currently produce around a third of the electricity in the 27-nation bloc, according to the commission.

“The first focus is on contingency planning; is there a need to better coordinate, to look again at the safety requirements,” Kearns told reporters in Brussels today. “It’s also a fact-finding to ask member states for their analysis of the situation and ask the people who do the inspections, who issue the licenses, are there new issues that we should be looking at given what we’ve just seen over the past days.”

Nuclear energy plays an important role in the EU transition to a low-carbon economy, the commission has said. The bloc wants to cut greenhouse gas discharges by 20 percent in 2020 and between 80 and 95 percent in 2050.

Nuclear Crisis

The German government views the nuclear crisis in Japan as an opportunity to re-examine positions on energy security, though Chancellor Angela Merkel still sees nuclear power as a “bridge technology” to guarantee affordable energy supplies for a “number of years,” government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters today in Berlin.

Merkel and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who pushed through an extension of nuclear power last year, will give a statement on this issue today at 4 p.m. local time.

“It’s up to each member state to take a decision whether or not they wish to make use of nuclear energy,” Kearns said. “That won’t be on the agenda during tomorrow’s debate. What we’re discussing here is about risk assessment and safety.”

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