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Nuclear power in the European Union accounted for approximately 15% of total energy consumption in 2005. The energy policies of the European Union (EU) member countries vary significantly. As of January 2010, 14 out of 27 countries have nuclear reactors. The countries with reactors are: Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Currently, ten European countries are building new reactors, or seriously planning to build new ones:
- United Kingdom
- Poland (the biggest European nation to have never had nuclear power plants)
- Czech Republic
Slovenian plans to expand Krško plant seem to have been dropped, instead a 20 years life extension is under evaluation. EPR new reactors under construction in Finland and France have been delayed and are running over-budget. Similar problems are for new VVR reactors under construction in Slovakia, which are anyway slowly closing to completion.
Several countries, among the ones owning nuclear power plants, have anyway expanded their nuclear power generation capacity by just upgrading existing reactors. Such upgrades granted from 10% to 29% more power per unit.
Following the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Germany has permanently shut down eight of its reactors and pledged to close the rest by 2022; but difficulties, costs and subsequent critics of planned energy transition could potentially harm this policy. Italy voted twice, in 1987 to make more difficult to build new plants (the vote was extensively interpreted by following governments as a total repeal of nuclear power plants, leading to the sudden shut down of all Italian operating reactors within few years), and in 2011 to keep their country non-nuclear. Switzerland and Spain have banned the construction of new reactors. Belgium is considering phasing out its nuclear plants. France, frequently heralded as a nuclear commercial model for the world, was as of 2011 locked in a national debate over a partial nuclear phase-out. In the same time, however, Sweden embraced a nuclear phase-out policy as early as 1980, so preceding all these countries; but only the two oldest reactors, of twelve, were shut down at their end of life; while in 2010 Swedish Parliament repealed this policy.
Stress tests were developed within EU in the aftermath of Fukushima nuclear disaster, with the goal to make all the 132 operating European reactors to follow the same safety standards and to have the same safety level, for a list of possible catastrophical events (e.g. earthquake, flooding or plane crash). Generally speaking, the most part of reactors proved well during the tests, with just 4 reactors in 2 countries having less than one hour for reactivating safety systems; anyway, most part of reactors will have as well to undergo a program of safety upgrades. The costs of additional safety improvements were estimated in 2012 to be in the range of €30 million to €200 million per reactor unit. Thus, the total costs for the 132 reactors operating in the EU could be in the order of €10–25 billion for all NPP units in the EU over the coming years.