New Austrian Border Protests against Czech N-Plant

Published December 22nd, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Austrian anti-nuclear militants set up a protest camp Friday on the Czech border to demonstrate against a Soviet-built nuclear plant -- and threatened new blockades in January if their demands are not met. 

The threat came as the Czech republic's Temelin plant, 60 km (35 miles) from the Austrian border, suffered yet another glitsch, its fourth since being fired up in October despite fierce opposition from Vienna. 

The militants accused their own government of having been cheated by Czech authorities, after the Temelin plant -- which Vienna believes is unsafe -- was connected to the Czech national power grid on Thursday. 

"Austria has been had over a barrel," said a statement by the Platform against Nuclear Danger, referring to an agreement signed by Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel last week with Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman. 

Under the EU-brokered accord, the Czech leader agreed to safety and environmental studies being carried out before the plant could begin "commercial operation," probably not before next June. 

Campaigners say plugging Temelin into the grid amounts to a breach of the agreement. "'Commercial operation' is just a paper declaration," said the campaigner's chief spokesman Josef Puehringer. 

"If Austria and the European Commission tolerate this Czech affront, the Upper Austrian people will have no alternative, after the declared Christmas truce, than to organize new border blockades," he said. 

The militants blockaded the Austro-Czech border before and after Temelin's firing-up, leading Prague to appeal to the European Commission to help resolve the dispute. 

Construction of the plant, designed to comprise four Russian-style VVER-1000 megawatt reactors, was started in the 1980s, but was totally reviewed after the collapse of communism. 

The first reactor, which was switched on in October, includes extensive safety modifications and additions, with much of the new equipment provided by US giant Westinghouse -- VIENNA (AFP)  



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