A few old threads on the subject, in which you'll see that there was a lot of debate over just how effective or otherwise AFCIs are: Arc Fault Breakers AFCI breakers Arc-fault circuit-interrupters
And some information from one manufacturer (follow links at bottom of page for more): http://www.zlan.com/arc.htm
As yet, I've not seen anything on this side of the Atlantic which even hints at an AFCI even being under consideration.
At 230V, the current produced in a given fault condition is twice as high compared to 115V.
If the source impedance and resistance of the feeders and branch cables were the same up to the point of the short in both cases, then obviously this is true, but I think there are too many other factors to really make this generalization valid.
Just look at the variations in Zs one can find within the U.K.-- the actual fault current can vary widely on systems all running at the same voltage. The fault current at a rural cottage where the lines run 400 yards down a lane to the nearest pole-top xfmr is quite likely going to be lower at 240V than a similar fault on an American home at 120V with the xfmr right in front of the house.
It would be interesting to collate figures for average source impedance in city/rural areas for both countries.
A far higher proportion of US house fires are electrical in origin compared to the UK.
Do we have some statistics on this? I think we would still need to be very careful about the way such figures are compiled though, and about looking at just proportions.
I have no idea about the actual figures, but if, for example, fires from other non-electrical causes were less common in the U.S., then one would expect the proportion
of electrical fires to be higher, which does not imply that electrical fires are more likely, just that they form a larger percentage of total fires.
The quality of most US electrical accessories is mediocre compared to the EU,
I'm not sure how you come to that conclusion. I've seen good and bad on both sides of the pond, and IMHO when we start looking at switchgear (distribution equipment rather than switches & sockets etc.) American construction is undoubtedly far superior to what passes for "quality" products here these days.
and they still use wirenuts (Scruits) which AIUI were banned in the UK in the sixties,
I'm trying to think back to all the photos and violations threads on ECN. We've seen incorrectly installed wirenuts (too many conductors etc.), twisted connections with nothing else to hold them together (as is often found here as well), but I don't recall any in which it was the wirenutted connection per se
which was to blame. Backstabbed, push-in connections are another matter though. Ugh!
and routinely use unearthed outlets relying on RCD protection
That's only as a concession for retro fits. All new installs are required to have a ground run to the outlets.