Temelin Reactor Safety Report Renews Austrian Fears

BRUSSELS, Belgium, August 1, 2001 (ENS) - The Czech Republic has "fully and satisfactorily implemented" a safety agreement reached last December with neighboring Austria regarding the country's Temelin nuclear plant, according to a leaked draft report from the European Commission.

The revelation sparked a new round of Austrian discontent over the controversial power station.


Czech authorities say the Soviet designed nuclear power plant is safe.
After sustained protests from its neighbors, the Czech and Austrian governments signed the so-called Melk agreement last December, promising to undertake a full environmental impact assessment and allow foreign inspections of the nuclear power plant.

Pressure for the assessment was exerted by the European Commission after vigorous allegations by Austria and Germany that the Temelin nuclear plant did not match western safety standards.

The first of the power station's two 981 megawatt reactors began running at test levels last October. The startup triggered a week-long blockade of their Austrian border with the Czech Republic by anti-nuclear demonstrators in Austria.

The European Union took on a mediation role after politically explosive demands by Austria's right-wing Freedom Party for the Czech Republic's accession to the EU to be blocked over Temelin. The party has launched a plebiscite to back its demands.

Austrian groups reacted with alarm to the Commission's apparent endorsement of Czech actions since the Melk deal.

The environmental group Global 2000 alleged "another attempt to brainwash peoples' minds on Temelin."

Meanwhile, a leading member of Austria's official Temelin team claimed a lack of impartiality on the part of key European Commission figures behind the leaked report.

Neither the Czech nor the Austrian authorities have yet reacted officially to the leaked report.


Austrian Freedom Party members lobby for a referendum vote against a European Union entry of the Czech Republic, if Temelin is not shut down. (Photo courtesy Austrian Freedom Party)
According to an Austrian environment ministry official last December, the Czech authorities voluntarily extended an ongoing Environmental Impact Assessment to broaden its scope and enable participation by outside experts.

He told reporters that the revised procedures would be in line with the European Union environmental impact directive and would also comply with rules in the United Nations Espoo treaty on Environmental Impact Assessments in a transboundary context. This involves participation by citizens potentially affected, including people in neighboring countries, as well as multilateral consultation at government level.

But protesters of the Austrian Freedom Party say "countless breakdowns" at the Temelin nuclear plant, as well as risk assessments, have given rise to "horror scenarios filling Austrians with concern for their own future and the future of their children."

The Melk process did not reduce this concern, the Freedom Party protesters say. On July 21, Austria decided to hold a referendum on blocking the entry of the Czech Republic into the European Union if their environmental concerns over Temelin are not resolved.

But even the proponents of legal steps estimate the chances of referendum success as small, Freedom Party protesters acknowledge.


{Published in cooperation with ENDS Environment Daily, Europe's choice for environmental news. Environmental Data Services Ltd, London. Email: envdaily@ends.co.uk