Ministry dismisses criticism of impact study for new blocks at Temelín nuclear plant

The Czech Environment Ministry dismissed on Friday criticism voiced by a number of Czech NGOs over an environmental impact report for the construction of two new blocks at the Temelín nuclear power plant in southern Bohemia. Critics say that the study is incomplete, but most importantly, that the environmental impact assessment process is in breach of EU law.

The right-of-centre Czech government considers the development of nuclear energy one of its strategic priorities. In June, the new coalition announced it would push for the construction of two new blocks at the Temelín nuclear power plant in southern Bohemia. The 500-billion-crown tender which includes another three possible reactors has been dubbed the contract of the century. Shortly after, the Czech environment ministry published a report on the project’s environmental impact, known as EIA.

On Thursday, several Czech NGOs including the Czech branches of Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace slammed the study. They say it’s incomplete in that it fails to justify the need for the two new blocks, ignores the issues of radioactive waste, and does not give any details about the planned reactors. Also, the study ignores the so-called zero alternative. Martin Sedlák is a member of Friends of the Earth.

“The main problem with the documentation for the two new blocks at the Temelín plant is that there is no alternative. That means that there is no zero option. We believe that the volume of power that could be generated by the two new blocks must be compared to the potential of green energy, which is energy from renewable sources and the energy saved in housing and industry.”

Even more importantly, activists say, the EIA process itself is in breach of EU law. Under pressure from the European Commission, the Czech Republic amended its law on the assessment of environmental impact which now gives more rights to the parties concerned. But the process concerning the new blocks at Temelín is proceeding in accordance with the previous law. Radko Pavlovec is nuclear issues commissioner of Upper Austria’s regional government.

“The act on EIA, under which the project is being assessed, is in violation of European law. This is no assumption of mine; this is implied in the ruling of the European Court of Justice from June 10, 2010, which said that it breached the EU directive number 80/337.”

But the Czech Environment Ministry says that the report, compiled by the plant’s operator, the state-owned energy giant ČEZ, is sound, and the process will continue. Petr Kučera is a spokesman for the ministry.

Temelín nuclear power plant
“The documentation considered by the Environment Ministry meets all the requirements, and was made available on June 29, 2010 to all the concerned parties – for example, local government units, relevant administrative authorities and potentially affected countries. To date, we have not received any comments by the concerned states so it’s premature to speak about it.”

The concerned parties, including the governments of Germany and Austria, have until September 30 to voice their objections. If the Czech government manages to clear them away, the contract should be awarded in 2011 and construction may begin in 2013.