Clearance for Temelin nuclear start-up

Czech authorities approve first chain reaction as Austrian protesters continue blockades

Czech nuclear safety authorities today approved start-up of the Temelin nuclear power station in defiance of Austrian protests. The facility could be up and running within days, and should be generating commercial power from one reactor by May and a second one in November 2002.

Situated 50km from the Austrian border, plans to start Temelin have aroused fierce protests from the Czech Republic's neighbour, which has even threatened to block the country's accession to the EU (ENDS Daily 30 August). The Czech government maintains that the Soviet designed plant has been successfully modified to meet western standards (ENDS Daily 17 May 1999).

Austrian environmental groups have waged a furious campaign against Temelin, arguing in particular that a full environmental impact assessment has not been made and that safety concerns remain. Again today, as they did on Friday, thousands of people blocked Czech-Austrian border crossings in protest (ENDS Daily 6 October).

Europe's nuclear industry insists that the plant is safe, following 12 missions by the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency and the creation of an international committee to monitor commissioning and start-up. In addition, says trade association Foratom, Temelin will eventually generate 20% of Czech electricity demand, "making it possible to phase-out" polluting lignite-fuelled power stations and helping the country meet its commitments under the Kyoto climate protocol.

Follow Up:
Czech Nuclear Safety Office, tel: +420 2 21 62 41 11; Czech Power Company, tel: + 420 2 24 08 11 11.

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