International

Temelin controversy provokes Czechs

Czech officials have lashed out at Austria’s stance against the Temelin nuclear power plant. The Austrian government claims that the plant is not safe and that approval of Czech accession to the EU depends on it meeting international safety and environmental standards.

Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel said that if safety standards are not met, Austria would veto the chapter on energy in Czech accession talks with the EU. This would delay the entire integration process since all important decisions require unanimity in the 15-nation union.

The statement has provoked strong reaction from Czech officials. Parliamentary speaker Vaclav Klaus said: “Simplified and one-sided campaigns against Temelin are not productive. They cannot have any influence on any important decision of the Czech state and they can only substantially worsen our bilateral relations.”

Austria’s stance has led to anti-nuclear power demonstrations by Austrian activists and its behaviour has been described as “hysterical” by Libor Roucek, a spokesman for the Austrian government. “The plant complies with the most strict standards of the EU as well as the United States,” said Roucek. “The Austrians are complaining that it is not safe enough, but they are never specific. They have never said what exactly they consider unsafe.”

German nuclear experts have also expressed doubts about the safety of the plant. Wolfgang Renneberg of the German Environment Ministry questioned the reliability of safety valves and reserve battery capacity among potential problems in emergency situations.

Senegal ends electricity partnership

The Senegalese government and the consortium, La Senegalaise d’Investissement, comprising Hydro-Quebec of Canada and Elyo of France, have terminated their power supply partnership.

The 18-month contract was ended in the wake of difficulties which the national electricity company, Senelec, is facing.

Since the beginning of September the capital, Dakar, has experienced daily power shedding. The government is blaming its two strategic partners, which control 34 per cent of Senelec’s shares. Hydro-Quebec said: “All possible means were deployed to normalise power distribution to subscribers.”

West African countries increase cooperation

Nigeria, Togo and Benin have intensified their cooperation in the energy industry to promote integration in the sub-region.

Energy ministers from the three countries met in Abuja to find ways of implementing a Naira15bn ($15m) trans-national electrification project.

The ‘Nigeria-Benin-Togo Regional Interconnection Project’ would see the installation of a power line running from Lagos, Nigeria, to Togo through Benin. Nigeria’s Power and Steel Minister Olusegun Agagu said: “The project’s importance in demonstrating economic integration within the west African sub-region cannot be over-emphasized.”

Financing for Ukrainian reactors

The EU has proposed the financing of two new Ukrainian reactors as part of a revamped nuclear safety strategy for eastern European countries and former Soviet republics. It is part of an attempt to “streamline” current programmes in the field of nuclear safety for the former Soviet bloc.

The financing will help to complete the Khmelnitsky 2 and Rovno 4 reactors and bring them up to “internationally accepted levels of safety at a reasonable cost,” the Commission said.

In a separate move, the UK government is to give à‚£80m ($118m) to former Soviet Union states, some of which will be used to improve the safety of nuclear power plants.

PowerGen sells

UK power group PowerGen is reported to be interested in selling its Hungarian power generation subsidiary, Csepel Electricity Producer, in order to help pay for its acquisition in LG&E of the USA.

Finnish group Fortum is also said to be withdrawing from its involvement in the Budapest utility Budapest Power Plant Rt in order to fund expansion.

Lithuania to accept tenders

Lithuania is to invite bids for a tender to sell two electricity generating plants and power distribution networks of the state-run utility, Lithuanian Energy.

The government will sell at least 51 per cent of its the power plants and the electricity distribution and supply business. Separate tenders will be held for each of the four businesses.

Lithuania is preparing to split the 86.2 per cent vertically integrated power company into separate generation, transmission and distribution companies and intends to retain full control of the transmission grid.

Bids were scheduled to be submitted on September 21, 2000. A timetable has not yet been set for completion of the privatization.

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