What future for Czech coal industry after Temelin?
Environmental activists are camping outside the Temelin nuclear power plant in South Bohemia, in a last ditch effort to force a referendum before the plant is started up. Meanwhile, across the border, Germany's environment minister has joined his Austrian counterpart in expressing concerns over safety during the test launch. But there are many other issues at stake. One of the most important is the possible effect on unemployment, as the country will no longer have to rely on coal-fired power stations, which provide work to many in northern regions of the Czech Republic. Zuzana Smidova has more:
The country's sole nuclear power plant - Dukovany in South Moravia - has been producing electricity for 15 years, and currently employs some 1,500 people. Temelin's operators, the state power generation company CEZ, say the new plant will employ the same number of people, and will create 7,500 more jobs in service companies alone. But these figures only concern the region surrounding the nuclear plant. The major economic side affects of the launch of Temelin will show up in the region with the highest unemployment - North Bohemia - where more than 15% of the population are already out of work.
The North Bohemia region, which recently made the news when miners at the Kohinoor coal mine occupied mine shafts in protests at planned layoffs, depends heavily on mining. The fossil-fuel power plants dotting the region rely on the brown coal mined nearby. Fossil-fuel plants produce about 65 percent of the electricity produced by CEZ, but following the launch of Temelin the number will fall dramatically - by 10 percent over the next three years and possibly further later on.
Less mining, obviously, means less miners. CEZ calls this the 'long-term effect of the prolongation of the existing stock of domestic coal.' The question is whether the local miners will see it in an equally positive light.