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Government approves first draft of 2001 state budget

After long discussions, the Czech government has approved the first draft version of the state budget for the year 2001. The revenues should amount to CZK 613 billion, while expenditures are expected to be CZK 20 billion higher. Finance Minister Pavel Mertlik said it was impossible to meet all the demands put forward by individual ministries. However, if there is any additional income, he said they will be directed to the highest priority chapter, which is education.

How a small South-Bohemian village made it into world headlines

The disputes around the nuclear power station at Temelin have been the dominant issue of the past few days as Austria and several environmental organisations have been stepping up their campaign against the activation of the plant. Last week, Greenpeace informed the Czech State Office for Nuclear Safety about serious safety flaws at Temelin. However, the Office sees no reason to delay the activation of Temelin.

Greenpeace insists on the authenticity of their information, that there is poor quality welding on the primary circuit pipelines but the State Office for Nuclear Safety says all critical parts of the power station have been thoroughly checked and tested and that all previous faults found have already been corrected, as Vratislav Fajman, a spokesman for the Nuclear Safety Office told Radio Prague. Knowing this, Greenpeace took the surprising step of lodging a complaint against an unknown offender for criminal acts of falsification of documents and threatening public health. The complaint relates to the installation of the main steam pipes to the Temelin reactor vessel. Actually, Greenpeace experts say the corrective measures have not been adequate and that there is still a danger of a rupture in the reactor cooling system's main pipe, which could cause a nuclear catastrophe of massive proportions.

Greenpeace also claims that some of the several thousand impulse tubes used for measurement have been installed at a wrong angle. The Nuclear Safety Office seems to have refuted this claim, saying the difference in angle is within the tolerance allowed by the project. Besides, for safety reasons, there are three times more tubes than necessary in case some of them prove faulty.

Representatives of the Nuclear Safety Office met with Greenpeace members on Tuesday to clarify their positions. Why do Greenpeace not believe the authority? Jan Haverkamp, Greenpeace campaigner in nuclear issues, explains the catch: I asked Mr. Fajman, whether they would act on the allegations: verify the documentation and check the quality of the pipeline again. And how do the two parties evaluate Tuesday's consultation? However, as far as postponing the activation is concerned, the spokesman for the State Office for Nuclear Safety, Vratislav Fajman, sees the situation quite differently: Meanwhile, the Temelin nuclear power station has itself filed a lawsuit against Greenpeace for spreading false information. And Czech President Havel has demanded a detailed report on Temelin safety.

For the time being, everything is still open and discussion will continue. Greenpeace claims that there are many non-transparent processes in Temelin that the State Office for Nuclear Safety does not see or does not want to see. According to Greenpeace, the authority is failing to play the role of the supervisor that protects the nuclear safety of the public and suggests some really radical solutions, such as: The Czech Republic's second nuclear power plant is likely to be put in operation in mid-September. Meanwhile, stockbrokers said that foreign investors have been watching the preparations for bringing Temelin on-line just as carefully as the latest news about the privatisation of the energy sector. Analysts said successful tests and a go-ahead for putting the plant into operation would be highly beneficial for the shares of Temelin's owner, the monopoly power utility CEZ. On the other hand, any delays or other problems are likely to weaken the company's stock and a termination of the project, as demanded by environmentalists, could be fatal.

1/3 of Czechs own a mobile phone

Moving to a completely different topic, mobile telecommunications, and in mid-August, 30 percent of the Czech population, owned a mobile telephone and the percentage is expected to continue it's rapid rise. This is according to the Internet Mobile Server, a site that focuses on publishing information on mobile phones, mobile technology, and wireless telecommunications in general. In Western Europe, the mobile penetration is around 50 percent, a figure the Czech Republic is set to come up to soon.

Pavel Borkovec, the Managing Director of Mobile Server, sees three main reasons for the rapid spread of mobile communications.