Temelin battles continue as power increases to 75%

30 October 2001

Temelin has been granted permission to increase its energy production to 75%, according to Dana Drabova, the director of the State Nuclear Safety Office (SUJB).

Output has recently reached 705MWe for the first time. Trial operation of Temelin will begin, now estimated to take place in February, once all tests are completed at 100% output and the plant operates continuously for 144 hours at full capacity.

Also last month there was further good news for the troubled plant, as EU Enlargement Commissioner Günther Verheugen issued a statement that said that the Melk process of Temelin’s safety assessment is finished and should be closed. In a letter to Czech Premier Milos Zeman and Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel, Mr Verheugen said: “All safety concerns have been eliminated.” Since the Czech party has submitted all the required information, the EC believes that the Melk process should now be completed on the political level. The Melk agreement, which proposed that a commission of experts should assess Temelin’s safety and environmental impact by June this year, was signed by Premier Zeman and Chancellor Schüssel last December.

Czech Foreign Ministry spokesman Ales Pospisil said that, if the process could not be completed soon, “then the Austrian-Czech dispute over Temelin will have to be solved by the European Commission.” While the Czech Republic has welcomed Mr Verheugen’s comments, Austrian opponents of Temelin have expressed their disappointment and anger. Otto Gumpinger, a member of the Upper Austrian Diet and the chairman of the Austrian-Czech anti-atomic committee, said that if someone claimed that there are no doubts about Temelin, then that was “a blatant lie,” adding: “The technology in Temelin still does not correspond with Western standards in many respects.” Many critics, including Mr Gumpinger, are now calling for the country to block the energy chapter of the accession talks. Despite its similar criticism of Temelin, Germany has assured the Czech Republic that it will not delay the closing of the energy chapter.

Wolfgang Streitenberger, head of the European Commission delegation in Austria, said that a possible Austrian veto on the Czech Republic’s entry into the EU over the issue would be “an act of unusual self-isolation of a member country.” Vienna Mayor Michael Häupl also said that he was against veto threats to the Czech Republic.

These latest developments have once again triggered protests at border crossings. More than a hundred protesters staged a demonstration at the Weigetschlag-Studanky crossing, and a similar number gathered at the Wullowitz-Dolni Dvoriste crossing.

Meanwhile, the Belgian power group Electrabel has announced that it has withdrawn its bid for a majority stake in CEZ, the Czech state-controlled electricity company. The company said that its decision had been made after “evaluating the risks and political uncertainties regarding the nuclear part” of the package. The company also claimed that the privatisation process did not give an equal chance to all the bidders.

Early last month, four bidders had been shortlisted – of which one was Electrabel – to compete for the Czech government’s 67.6% stake in CEZ, estimated to be worth between $5.4 billion and $6.8 billion.

The remaining shortlisted bidders for CEZ are Electricité de France; a combined bid by Enel of Italy and Iberdrola of Spain; and a joint venture between NRG Energy of the USA and International Power of the UK. British Energy has also separately expressed that it has an interest in either acquiring or managing the Czech nuclear plants.

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