54 Countries to Take Part in Nuclear Emergency Exercise

VIENNA, Austria, May 16, 2001 (ENS) - As part of ongoing international collaboration to deal with possible nuclear emergencies, on May 22 and 23 an extensive international nuclear emergency exercise will be carried out in France.

The activities will be based on a French national exercise at the Gravelines nuclear power plant located in the north of France, close to the Belgian border near Dunkirk. The Gravelines site has six pressurized water reactors, each providing 910 megawatts of electrical power.

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Webcam shot inside one of four reactors at the French Cattenom nuclear power plant. (Photo courtesy Electricite de France)
The exercise will involve a simulated incident at a fictitious unit on this site with the possibility of an environmental impact. Participants may have to decide on measures to protect the public based on actual weather conditions at the time of the exercise.

Third in an ongoing annual series, the Gravelines exercise is jointly sponsored and coordinated by five international organizations, the European Commission, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency, the World Health Organization, and World Meteorological Organization.

The 54 countries participating worldwide will follow their own actual national emergency response plans and procedures, using their own emergency response centres, and will share information and co-ordinate response activities.

The main objectives of the exercise are to test existing national and international procedures and arrangements for responding to a nuclear emergency, co-ordinate the release of information, and assess the effectiveness of advisory and decision making mechanisms.

Following the exercise, each participating organization will undertake an evaluation in order to further improve emergency preparedness.

A total of 438 nuclear power plants were operating around the world at the end of 2000, two more than the previous year. Together they have a total net installed generating capacity of 351 gigawatts of power, according to data just released by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

A specialized agency within the United Nations system, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) serves as the world's central intergovernmental forum for scientific and technical cooperation in the nuclear field.

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Brazil's newest nuclear power plant, Angra 2, was connected to the grid on July 21, 2000. Angra 3 is scheduled for completion in 2006. (Photo courtesy Electronuclear)
During 2000, six new nuclear power plants representing 3,056 megawatts net electric capacity were connected to the power grids of the world - one in Brazil, one in the Czech Republic, three in India and one in Pakistan.

Construction of three new nuclear reactors started in 2000 - one in China and two in Japan, bringing the total number of nuclear reactors reported as being under construction to 31.

In 2000, Chernobyl 3 in Ukraine was declared permanently shut down. This was a companion reactor to Chernobyl 4 which was responsible for the world's worst nuclear accident when an explosion and fire April 26, 1986 destroyed the facility and spread radioactivity across much of Europe.

Nuclear power provides about 16 percent of global electricity, with about 83 percent of nuclear capacity concentrated in industrialized countries.

The 10 countries with the highest reliance on nuclear power in 2000 were: France, 76.4 percent; Lithuania, 73.7 percent; Belgium, 56.8 percent; Slovak Republic, 53.4 percent; Ukraine, 47.3 percent; Bulgaria, 45 percent; Hungary, 42.2 percent; Republic of Korea, 40.7 percent; Sweden, 39 percent and Switzerland, 38.2 percent.

In total, 17 countries relied upon nuclear power plants to supply at least a quarter of their total electricity needs.

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Watts Bar Unit I, the newest nuclear plant in the United States. (Photo courtesy Nuclear Regulatory Commission)
In North America, where 118 reactors supply about 20 percent of electricity in the United States and 12 percent in Canada, the number of operating reactors has declined slightly.

The United States has 103 operating nuclear power reactors at 65 sites. The newest is the Tennessee Valley Authority's Watts Bar Unit I which began commercial operations in May 1996.

In Western Europe, with 150 reactors, overall capacity is likely to remain at or near existing levels in the coming years, the IAEA predicts.

In Central/Eastern Europe and the Newly Independent States, with 68 reactors, a few partially built plants are likely to be completed, while aging units are being shut down.

Only in the Middle East, Far East and South Asia, with a total of 94 reactors at present, are there clear plans for expanding nuclear power, particularly in China, India, the Republic of Korea and Japan.

The International Atomic Energy Agency Power Reactor Information System database of nuclear power plants worldwide is online at: http://www.iaea.org/programmes/a2/