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Study finds that almost all nuclear reactors in Europe need repairs

BRUSSELS — Practically all of the more than 130 active nuclear reactors in the European Union need safety improvements, repairs, or upgrades, at a cost up to $32 billion, according to a draft copy of a European Commission report scheduled to be released Thursday.

The scale of the problems detailed in the report, as well as the size of the expected repair bill, may amplify public concerns about the safety of nuclear power on the part of Europeans, who are already deeply divided over the technology and whose governments still zealously guard control over energy policy at the national level.

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The European Commission undertook the safety review of its nuclear plants after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which led to the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Part of the assessment was the performance of ‘‘stress tests,’’ which are meant to assess how a nuclear facility would fare in various kinds of failures and crises. National specialists conducted the stress tests in conjunction with the commission’s advisory group on nuclear safety. The tests identified the need for ‘‘hundreds of technical upgrade measures,’’ the draft says.

The two biggest previous civilian nuclear accidents — at Three Mile Island outside Harrisburg, Pa., in 1979, and at Chernobyl, Ukraine, in 1986 — were followed by similar scrutiny, and agreements were reached on extensive new safety measures. But the draft report notes that ‘‘even today, decades later, the implementation of those measures is still pending’’ in some EU countries.

Among the vulnerabilities identified in the report, the commission found that at four reactors in Finland and Sweden, if the cooling systems failed or all electric power was lost, the operators would have less than an hour to restore safety functions before catastrophic damage was done. The report says that 10 reactors in countries including Spain, France, and the Czech Republic lack adequate equipment to detect earthquakes.

Most of the upgrades called for in the report involve making European nuclear plants better able to withstand earthquakes, flooding, and the loss of primary cooling — the factors that combined to devastating effect at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

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