Are All of France's Nuclear Power Plants Unsafe?

The French are great at lots of things: bread, cheese, wine, shrugging. Sadly, their nuclear power stations aren't so amazing. They're unsafe, and need a massive overhaul.

After Japan's Fukushima disaster in March, France decided to carry out safety tests on all of its nuclear reactors, reports Reuters. That means it checked 58 that are in use, plus a next-generation reactor under construction in north-western France.

After what happened in Japan, France wanted to know if its infrastructure could stand up to flooding, earthquakes, power outages, failure of the cooling systems and operational management of accidents.

Turns out, none of the plants come up to scratch. Jacques Repussard, head of ISRN, the institute that carried out the tests, told Reuters:

"There is a need to add a layer to protect safety mechanisms in reactors that are vital for the protection of the reactor such as cooling functions and electric powering."

"All reactors have to survive much more violent events than what they were built to resist."

Slightly odd French-English translation aside, that's bad news. Essentially, none of the plants are able to cope with violent natural disasters, and if something goes wrong, the safety mechanisms in place aren't sufficient.

Though it's not certain how much it will cost to improve the plants, officials are keen to get started quickly, and Repussard is reported to have claimed that it should take "no longer than a few years". What is clear is that they don't intend to decommission any of the sites, though, instead making sure each and every one is upgraded.

France has always had somewhat of a love-hate relationship with nuclear power. That came to a head earlier this year when an explosion at a nuclear plant killed a worker.

While it's great that France isn't content to leave its reactors in their current state, it makes me wonder how other countries compare. What state are nuclear plants in less developed countries in? I'm damned if I know, but I think we need to find out. [Reuters; Image: The Official CTBTO Photostream]