Austrians, Czech still firmly divided over Temelin


The controversial Temelin nuclear power plant in South Bohemia was again the focus of media attention on Wednesday, as a public hearing was held in the South Bohemian city of Ceske Budejovice into an environmental impact study on Temelin. Most Austrian representatives and anti-nuclear campaigners boycotted proceedings, saying the study is incomplete, while the Czechs insist the plant is safe. Nick Carey was there and brings back this report.

The issue of Temelin has severely strained relations between the Czech Republic and Austria, a staunchly nuclear-free country, over the past year. While the Czech government has remained determined to put Temelin on line, their Austrian counterparts, following mass public protests, threatened on several occasions last year to tie the issue to Czech EU membership aspirations. The two governments eventually agreed in Melk in Austria in December to carry out an environmental impact study at Temelin to address Austrian safety concerns. The study, says the Czech side is complete, Temelin is safe, and poses a minimal risk.

But Temelin is as divisive an issue as ever, with both sides firmly entrenched. Austrian environmental activists like Manfred Toppler, feel the study is incomplete and therefore irrelevant:

Manfred Toppler: The documentation presented by the Czech commission was not complete.

Radio Prague: In what way?

MT: Two very important points were missing. On one side there is the analysis of a so-called serial variant, which means to prove and analyse what happens if Temelin is shut down. And the second point is to prove what would be done in the event of a severe accident that would cause harm to other countries, especially Austria and Germany.

RP: What do you intend to propose at this hearing then?

MT: We propose that the Czech commission should compile the documentation in full, and only then can we talk about an impact assessment.

On the other side of the fence, Frantisek Hezoucky, the director of Temelin, says the study has been completed and that Austrian campaigners had their chance to address safety concerns at the hearing on Wednesday:

"What can say to opponents of Temelin? If they have any reasonable argument, they have the floor now, here, to explain their arguments and to ask for answers."

Also at the hearing were the South Bohemian Daddies, a group that includes workers at Temelin, who travel around the country in support of the plant. They are utterly opposed to Austrian suggestions that Temelin is dangerous:

"I can only say that this is absolute nonsense. Temelin is the most modern nuclear power plant in Europe. Its safety is on the highest possible level, an international level. So all those Austrian objections are completely mad."