Greenpeace confronts Europe’s ageing nuclear reactors


Paris, 5 March 2014This morning, across Europe, 240 Greenpeace activists have taken part in protests to highlight the risks of Europe’s ageing nuclear power stock. In a total of 6 countries; France, Sweden,  Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands and Switzerland.  The activists have carried out a series of different activities at nuclear facilities demanding that their governments stop extending the life-time of these old and deteriorating nuclear reactors.

Today’s actions coincide with the launch of a major new independent report (1) commissioned by Greenpeace that exposes the scale of Europe’s ageing nuclear stock. The report found that out of 151 operational nuclear reactors in Europe (excluding Russia), 67 are more than 30 years old, 25 more than 35 years and seven of them over 40 years.

Analysis in the report shows that 44% of European nuclear reactors are over thirty years old. The average age across Europe is now 29 years, while a typical design lifespan of a reactor is 30 or 40 years. These findings raise the prospect of a new era of nuclear risk across Europe unless governments resist calls for reactors to be operated beyond their intended lifetimes.

Commenting of the report’s findings, one of the co-authors Jan Haverkamp said:
« By asking to extend the lifetimes of their old and deteriorating nuclear power plants, the big European electricity companies are simply hoping to extract more profit from their nuclear cash cows, while leaving Europe’s citizens facing greater risks and enormous consequences in the event of an accident. »

« The lifetime extension of European nuclear reactors would lock us into an old and dangerous energy source for decades. When they meet to discuss energy policy at a summit in late March in Brussels, European leaders must seize the opportunity to end the age of risk and pollution and support a binding renewables target to hasten the age of clean energy »

The new report looks at the technical risks of ageing nuclear reactors and considers the economic and political factors relevant to reactor lifetime extension. It makes clear that in spite of upgrades and repairs, the overall condition of nuclear reactors deteriorates in the long term, not least because components key to safety such as the reactor pressure vessel and containment cannot be replaced. The likelihood of an accident and the number of potential complications therefore increase over time. However, decisions whether to extend the lifetimes of old reactors may be swayed by economic and political arguments, since old reactors have already paid back on their capital costs.

Greenpeace is demanding reactors that are older than their initial design lifetime are closed immediately, and calls on European nuclear regulators not to grant any lifetime extensions beyond that point. It also urges European governments to support a binding 45% renewable energy target for 2030 for Europe (2).

Greenpeace has also launched, an online version of the report that offers enhanced visual content and opportunities to take action. In view of the urgent situation underlined by the report, Greenpeace today calls on European citizens to take action by making a pledge to refuse the new era of nuclear risk at the website.

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Notes to editors:
(1) The full report ‘Lifetime extension of ageing nuclear power plants: Entering a new era of risk’, and a comprehensive briefing can be downloaded here:

(2) At the 20 & 21 March EU Summit European leaders will discuss the climate and energy framework for 2030 ( The EU has to define its climate and energy targets and frame for future policies, for the period after the the agreed and existing 2020 targets and policies. In this context Greenpeace demands binding and ambitious climate and energy targets for the EU and the national level. This includes an EU-wide reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% (compared to 1990), a share of renewable energy in the total energy consumption of at least 45% and a reduction of final energy consumption by 40% (compared to 2005).