Temelin high on the agenda again


Tuesday´s public hearing in Vienna on the results of an environmental impact study of the Czech Temelin nuclear power plant was accompanied by protests. Anti-nuclear activists tried to obstruct the entrance to the Vienna Hofburg Palace where the hearing was held. However, some observers saw at least a hint of a possible breakthrough in the Czech-Austrian deadlock. Lucie Krupickova has more:

Member of the European Commission for EU enlargement Andreas Herdina, considered the hearing a step in the right direction. On the other hand the Environment Minister for Lower Austria, Wolfgang Sobotka, claimed that answers given by Czech representatives to questions concerning Temelin´s safety were either insufficient or evasive. So did the hearing see any real progress? I asked Kery Skyring from Radio Austria International:

"I think that the fact that the hearing is being held and that there is a process under way does signify progress. There are different opinions in Austria, of course. You will find that the people from Austria closest to the Czech border, the regional politicians there will be very opposed to Temelin. But their position is different from that of the federal government and you have the Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel saying ´We must follow the process, we must keep open the dialogue and I think that´s what´s important what is happening at the federal level."

Anti-nuclear activists condemned the hearing as "rubbish" and an attempt to vindicate the controversial plant 60 kilometres north of the Austrian border.

The truth remains that Temelin has been beset by a series of technical faults since it went on a test run last year. Upper Austrian governor Josef Puehringer fears that the hearing could be understood as a kind of final approval from Austria for the Temelin power plant to start full operation. Kery Skyring, however, does not think this would be the case:

"I mean, obviously that is his fear that this will rubber-stamp the whole Temelin thing and that Austria´s concerns about its relationship with the Czech Republic will lead the government to compromise its position or soften its position on Temelin. But if we look at what the minister responsible for the environment in Austria Wilhelm Molterer is saying: he´s saying ´OK, we´ve held this hearing, now there are still a lot more to do, a lot more information to be assembled, but the process that was agreed at Melk is going to be followed by this government and we´re not going to pull out at this stage. So, again, you have the national government - the coalition government - following a certain line which follows the Melk process, and you have the governor of upper Austria saying this is just going to rubber-stamp Temelin and we´re opposed to it."

The Austrian far-right Freedom Party said on Tuesday it would launch a nationwide petition next month to veto Czech EU membership if the Temelin nuclear plant went fully operational. Party leader in Upper Austria province Hans Achatz said in Linz that a veto would be the only possibility, because the Czech government and the operators of Temelin apparently do not understand any other language. At the same time in Vienna, Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel ruled out any possibility of an Austrian veto against the Czech Republic's accession to the EU. As he said the Austrian government is not playing with vetoes, but trying to offer solutions.

Author: Lucie Krupičková
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