VIENNAThe Czech Republic’s EU membership aspirations could be threatened if Prague goes ahead with plans to activate a nuclear plant just inside its border. The threats are coming from the environmentally friendly Greens to the far-right Freedom Party.
The Temelin plant, which was loaded with fuel last month and is set to start tests soon ahead of full-scale operations beginning in October or November, is located 30 miles from the Austrian border.
“We want the Czech entry into the EU to be dependent upon Temelin. And we do not want Temelin to go ahead,” said Christoph Schweitzer, spokesperson for the government head of Upper Austria.
Even though German Environment Minister Jurgen Trittin has criticized the plant, Austria, who led similar protests against a plant in Slovakia last year, has been by far the most vocal opponent of Temelin.
In theory any EU member state can veto a candidate’s accession, as each new member’s entry must be ratified by member states’ parliaments before coming into force. Austria is itself under an EU cloud over its inclusion of the far-right in its coalition government which took office in February.
Austria has been extremely critical concerning the Temelin plant, monitoring every action at the plant. Environment Minister Wilhelm Molterer recently demanded an investigation into an oil spillage at the plant in a non-nuclear area. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) downplayed the incident, describing it as very minor.
Suffering through a two year slump in economic growth, the Czech government wants to press ahead with Temelin. The government is anticipating the privatization of the plant in the next few years. The plant will provide 20 percent of the power needs of the Czech Republic when fully online.
The plant is being upgraded from a Soviet era plant to Western standards. Westinghouse and others are providing the equipment to upgrade the plant.
The EU has made nuclear safety a key priority in its membership talks with ex-communist states, many of which have Soviet-designed power plants that fail to come up to Western standards.
Three of them-Bulgaria, Slovakia and Lithuania-were bluntly forced to pledge closure dates for certain antiquated plants before being allowed to start talks with Brussels.
Austria threatened in vain last year to veto the EU invitation to Slovakia over the Mochovce plant, barely a few hours’ drive from Vienna.