Temelin to go online by end of week


By the end of this week, trials will have begun on the number one reactor at the Temelin nuclear power station in South Bohemia. Block A has been closed for three months as essential maintenance work to the reactor turbine - costing some $1m - was being carried out. The work followed a series of turbine breakdowns thought to have been caused by excessive vibration.

The news has not been welcomed in neighbouring Austria. The Austrian Environment Ministry said that there was no reason to reactivate Temelin at the present time because safety issues still had to be addressed. The country's Green Party has labeled the new testing as "an irresponsible act."

Temelin is situated only 60 km from the Czech-Austrian border and has been the subject of much controversy amongst politicians and environmentalists in both countries. A recent environmental impact assessment sanctioned, by both Prague and Vienna, concluded that Temelin would have only a 'negligible' effect on its surrounding environment, although its findings have been derided by many green activists. Jan Haverkamp of Greenpeace Czech Republic, told Radio Prague's Peter Smith that Temelin would ultimately fail because it was not economically viable.

"To be very honest I think Temelin is dead at the moment. First of all because of economic arguments - the whole discussion about safety is a side discussion, it's always leading you into small and complicated pathways. Temelin has always been an economic problem - it has also been a social problem. And it still is also a safety problem. I think that the stand of the German government will sharpen, and that will also have its reaction on the European Union point of view."

The environmentalists have had to shift their focus on Temelin - it seems that the political will is not there to stop the Czech Republic entering the European Union regarding this issue.

"We were the people who said that we didn't want that linked, because we see that Temelin is not a problem for which you have to punish all the people - Temelin is an economic problem and it's a technical problem, and that means you have to solve it in an economic and technical way, not in a political pressure way. If you look at the Melk [agreement], at the last reports, then you can read between the lines because it is not said explicitly but the tables are very clear. The environmental problem of nuclear power, however, is not the buildings, it's not the emissions - the key to the problem of nucleat power is radioactive waste. It has been mentioned here as 'a factor that we have to take care of, but it will be taken care of' in 2065. My son, who is now 9 years old, will be 73 at that time."

Greenpeace, of course, will never agree with nuclear power - do you see this complete 'non-tolerance' as going against the environmentalists sometimes because there is no room for compromise - you are in a corner.

"I think that we have been very tolerant in discussing a lot of issues there and going into depth, picking up a lot of technical things - how long must we be tolerant on the issue of not bringing up nuclear waste for such a long time? Why is it kept out of an environmental impact assessment in this way? Why is it considered a solvable problem if 70 years of scientific research have not led to one final storage place for nuclear waste? The European Parliament is going to offer a resolution in which it is going to see Temelin as a liability - that means it will be able to get European funds if the project is given up. And I think that when that comes on the table in September, the prospectus will change - will change a lot. Because Temelin is not going to make a profit."