Temelin "not yet at western safety levels"

European nuclear regulators association stokes Austrian, Czech, conflict over nuclear plant

The Czech Republic's controversial Temelin nuclear power plant has not yet reached western European safety standards, a group of EU nuclear plant regulators said today. The plant was activated last month, provoking protests in neighbouring Austria, which claims that its safety levels are unsatisfactory (ENDS Daily 30 August).

In a major report on nuclear safety standards in central and eastern European countries hoping to join the EU, the Western European Nuclear Regulators' Association (Wenra) said the Czech authorities still needed to resolve "a few safety problems" centred on water pipes and steam outlet valves at Temelin. But it said the plant "should reach a safety level comparable to that of currently operating western European reactors" once these problems were resolved. The findings are bound to fuel Austrian-Czech conflict over Temelin, giving both ammunition to argue their case.

The report could also reopen debate over two reactors at the Bohunice nuclear plant in Slovakia. The Slovak government last year agreed to close them in 2006 and 2008 in return for EU financial aid (ENDS Daily 14 October 1999). The EU has defined the reactors as "non-upgradeable," but Wenra now says that they "should reach a safety level comparable to that of Western European reactors of the same vintage" if concerns over their confinement systems are resolved.

Nuclear campaigners have slammed Wenra's conclusions. "Its main goal is to keep unsafe nuclear power plants on the grid and get some upgrading contracts for the ailing western industry," Patricia Lorenz from Friends of the Earth Europe said today.

Follow Up:
Wenra report and press release. Friends of the Earth Europe, tel: +32 2 542 0180, and a press release.

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