Statement from Dr. Johannes Teyssen
CEO of E.ON AG takes position to the special meeting in Brussels on March 15, 2011
“The terrible events in Japan, particularly the dramatic accident at the Fukushima nuclear power station, have touched us very deeply and give us cause for grave concern. Our thoughts at this time are with the Japanese people and with our colleagues at Japan’s nuclear power stations.
The number one priority, to which all our efforts at this time must be subordinated, is this: How can we help the people on the ground in Japan? We must not allow this priority to be overshadowed by the current debate about the future of nuclear energy in Germany and Europe. The people of Japan and our colleagues at Japan’s nuclear facilities need to know that we are able to respond rapidly with technical and logistical assistance wherever this is required. Today, we have been holding discussions on how best to coordinate the various offers of aid Europe-wide so that we can help in the most efficient way possible.
As soon as we learned of the accident, we at E.ON promised the German government our full technical and logistical support for the affected regions of Japan. We are standing by and are ready to help at any time.
At the same time, we are endeavoring to gain a clearer understanding of the situation in Fukushima. Our technical people are following developments very closely and are doing their utmost to discover how this disaster came about and what might potentially happen next.
Obviously, we also need to address the question – and indeed we have already done so with our colleagues here in Europe – as to what this accident in Japan means for nuclear energy in Europe. And to answer this question we first need truly reliable, proven facts. It is therefore proper and fitting that the accident should first be carefully analyzed – so that the recommendations that emerge are based on facts. For even though earthquakes or tsunamis of this severity may seem all but impossible in most of Europe, it is still our duty to continuously improve the security systems of our nuclear power stations. That has always been our practice in the past, and it will of course remain so in the future.
There can be no doubt that the events in Japan are a critical moment for the peaceful use of nuclear energy and for the debate on the safety of nuclear power stations in Europe. Germany’s Chancellor has already said as much, and I wholeheartedly concur with her assessment. In this context, we also fully understand the government’s decision to impose a three-month moratorium on its plans to extend the life of Germany’s nuclear power plants. Clearly, this is intended to send a signal that in light of the events in Japan, it is simply not possible to go back to “business as usual.” On behalf of E.ON and Germany’s nuclear power plant operators, I give my assurance that we will do everything within our power to gain a full understanding of the events in Japan as quickly as possible. To this end, we are offering our full cooperation to all national and European committees that may have need of our technical expertise and plant operation experience. After all, our plants here in Germany are operated in accordance with the most stringent safety standards in the world. However, the fact that our boiling water reactor plants differ from those in Japan must be taken into account in any analysis of the situation.
The German Chancellor quite rightly said that – and I quote –“Germany’s nuclear power plants are, to the best of our knowledge, safe.” She said further that if she did not believe this to be the case, she would be required by her oath of office to have the country’s nuclear power stations shut down immediately. Mrs. Merkel also quite rightly pointed out that the planned nuclear extension would have to go hand in hand with a significant further tightening of safety standards. E.ON is already investing considerable effort in doing just that.
Of course, the issue of safety is not confined by national borders – certainly not in a densely populated region like Europe. There is little benefit in having one state in Europe exit the peaceful use of nuclear energy only to then import nuclear energy from a neighboring state. This will not solve the safety problem so much as put it “out of sight, out of mind.”
This is part of the reason why we and our European colleagues came together in Brussels to initiate dialogue with the EU Commission on what the events in Japan mean for existing and future nuclear reactors in Europe and, indeed, in the whole of the world.
We and Europe’s nuclear power plant manufacturers have jointly proposed the establishment of a Round Table under the leadership of the European Commission. The idea of the Round Table is to pool Europe’s expertise in nuclear energy and to bring together the various national supervisory authorities, plant operators and manufacturers in order to explore all possibilities and to ensure that the analysis and assessment of the events in Japan benefits from all the expertise Europe has to offer.
The Round Table needs to be up and running as soon as possible so that it can function as Europe’s central coordination hub for energy-sector assistance measures. We say this because it is clear from the scale and extent of the disaster in Japan that the situation cannot be “fixed” overnight. Rather, Japan will continue to face enormous challenges over the coming days and weeks – and they won’t just be about Fukushima, but will encompass the whole of Japan’s energy infrastructure, including issues such as network integrity and the stability of conventional power stations.
It is both desirable and essential that the work done by the proposed Round Table also interfaces with efforts outside of Europe, including with the activities of the International Atomic Energy Agency. If Europe succeeds in bringing together its vast and highly diverse pool of nuclear energy expertise, then it is our duty to take the next step and become a driving force for energy safety both within and beyond Europe.
In order for Europe to kick off a global initiative of this kind it is only right and proper that we should first call a special summit of all European heads of state and government. But this special summit must be seen as a precursor to integrating the other regions of the world and the other communities of states into the process under the leadership of the International Atomic Energy agency.
If we succeed in this, then we will have, for the first time ever, an initiative for joint, cross-border nuclear energy safety – an initiative that would start life in Europe and very soon become international.
The reorganization of energy infrastructure that we are all striving for in Europe is not a short-term project; it is a marathon. And the accident in Japan shows us that we must now cooperate more intensively at European and international level if we are to complete the marathon. As a matter of first priority we must help the people on the ground in Japan with a minimum of bureaucracy and a maximum of speed. But ultimately, we must also discuss our energy future transparently and openly at both European and international level.”