New problems at Temelin

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Amidst international pressure and heated debate over whether to put the Temelin nuclear power station on-line, the State Office for Nuclear Safety has admitted there have been technical problems at the plant. While Austrians continue with blockades of Czech border crossings, Temelin and the other Czech nuclear power station, Dukovany, have also been preparing special security measures in connection with the expected arrival of radical anti-globalisation protesters to the Czech Republic. Vladimir Tax reports:

While Czech politicians are busy rejecting the latest nuclear safety demands, the Internet daily Idnes has quoted representatives of the State Office for Nuclear Safety, who admitted new technical problems have been discovered at the Temelin nuclear power station. These reportedly included two faulty valves which threatened to leak radioactive water, and a defective primary circuit temperature control device, which had to be disassembled and sent to the manufacturer for repairs.

These technical problems, according to observers, are likely to postpone the expected activation date of September 20 by a week or two. At the same time, they seem to be the only reason for a delay, as the Czech government has been resisting pressure from neighbouring Austria and the international community. While Czech President Vaclav Havel commented on the last week's European Parliament resolution concerning Temelin merely by saying that nuclear safety was the primary interest of the Czech Republic, Prime Minister Milos Zeman made it clear that the Czech government was doing its best to ensure the maximum safety of Temelin. He also suggested that Temelin, once put in operation, will be a strong player on the energy market. It would therefore be a surprise if the competitors did not fight against it, he said. On the other hand, the speaker of the lower house of Czech Parliament, Vaclav Klaus, is convinced that the European Parliament made its resolution without proper information and analyses.

Meanwhile, both Temelin and the other Czech nuclear power station, Dukovany, have been adopting special security measures. The Czech police and the intelligence services have discovered that some radical anti-globalisation activists are planning to stage protests outside the nuclear facilities as part of their campaign against the IMF/World Bank session, which is to take place in Prague in two weeks time. A member of the Czech counter-intelligence service was quoted in the press as saying that these were some of the most radical extremist groups around. Fortunately, experts say that protective measures against intruders at Temelin are irreproachable, unlike its safety standards.