Greenpeace protests in front of Italian Embassy over Slovak nuclear plant

Greenpeace outside Italian Embassy in Prague, photo: Author

Campaigners from the Czech branch of the environmental organisation Greenpeace gathered outside Prague's Italian Embassy on Tuesday. They were there to call on the Italian government to withdraw its participation in the completion of two reactors at Slovakia's controversial Mochovce nuclear power plant.

Greenpeace outside Italian Embassy in Prague, photo: Author
Greenpeace held protests in five Central European capitals on Tuesday, accusing the Italian government of exporting nuclear risk. Italy is a non-nuclear country, but its largest energy producer, Enel, is currently involved in a project to complete two reactors at the Soviet-designed Mochovce nuclear power plant. Enel holds a 66 percent stake in Slovakia's largest energy producer, Slovenske Elektrarne, which owns and operates Mochovce. Jan Rovensky is Greenpeace's climate and energy campaigner:

Greenpeace outside Italian Embassy in Prague, photo: Author
"I think the most important objection to this project is that it's really old. It's a Soviet construction from the 70s, and this old project doesn't even have the containment that protects the reactor in case of accident. So we hope that even people who support nuclear energy should be against this project because it's really dangerous."

Like the Czech Republic's Temelin nuclear plant, Mochovce was first drawn up by Czechoslovakia's communist government in the 1970s. The plan envisaged four reactors. Reactors one and two were completed - with added safety systems supplied by the German company Siemens - in the late 1990s. Work on reactors three and four has been suspended since 1992. Greenpeace says it should stay that way, citing safety, technological and economic concerns.

Their objections were contained in a formal letter presented to the Italian embassy on Tuesday.

Greenpeace outside Italian Embassy in Prague, photo: Author
First Secretary Arturo Arcano could not comment on Greenpeace's claims, but pointed out that the Italian government had only limited influence over Enel's involvement at Mochovce:

"As a preliminary remark I can say that Enel is a private company. The stake of the Italian government is around 30 percent. But the remaining shares are floated on the stock market, so it's a completely private company."

Mochovce supplies almost 10 percent of Slovakia's energy needs. The plant's operators point to international studies showing that the improved safety measures mean that Mochovce complies with all international nuclear safety standards. Greenpeace begs to differ, and says if reactors three and four go on line, Mochovce will expose the whole of Central Europe to a substantial nuclear risk.