Environment Minister says Nuclear Safety Office is playing down Temelin accidents

Temelin, photo: CTK

The Temelin nuclear power plant in South Bohemia has been in operation for over six years and yet its employees have their work cut out for themselves fixing one fault after the next. Since it was launched in October 2000, the plant has seen about forty unplanned shut-downs and eight leakages of radioactive fluid. The most recent leakages occurred last Tuesday and the Tuesday before that. Now, Environment Minister Martin Bursik has called for an investigation and says heads should roll at the state's Nuclear Safety Office.

Temelin,  photo: CTK
The Temelin nuclear power plant has seen two leakages of slightly radioactive water in one week and yet the plant has neither received a fine nor been asked to step up security measures. This is unacceptable, according to Environment Minister Martin Bursik, who accuses the head of the Nuclear Safety Office of playing down the seriousness of the accidents. The ministry's press officer Jakub Kaspar:

Martin Bursik,  photo: CTK
"There have been too many incidents at Temelin caused by either a human error or a technical fault. That is why the minister wants to oversee the state office for nuclear safety to determine whether it has introduced enough measures to monitor the nuclear power plant in Temelin. If the government finds that it is not satisfied then we expect Minister Bursik will propose dismissing the head of the state office for nuclear safety."

But the head of the Nuclear Safety Office, Dana Drabova, says the accidents at the plant have not been as serious as the media makes them appear. It is her job to be objective:

Dana Drabova,  photo: CTK
"The way the state monitors the plants always has to be balanced. This means that the steps we take really have to reflect reality and not what appears to be happening. As far as the recent accident involving a leak of radioactive fluid from an open tap is concerned, I can almost certainly rule out that it was intentional. It was undoubtedly a human error."

Trade and Industry Minister Martin Riman points out that an investigation is imperative no matter what the cause of the accidents. "Either the plant has a sloppy worker or someone leaked the water intentionally. No matter which explanation, an investigation should be launched to find out," he says. To discuss the recent accidents, Minister Riman has called a meeting with Ms Drabova and the CEO of the Czech power giant CEZ, which owns Temelin, for Thursday. But despite the growing concern about safety at Temelin, an opinion poll suggests that the majority of Czechs would like to see the country use more nuclear energy. According to Czech Television, 59 percent of those polled would like the Temelin plant to expand while only 40 percent were against it.