Czech villagers embrace disputed nuclear plant

Mar 19, 2013 by Jan Marchal
The four cooling towers of Temelin Nuclear Power Plant are seen from a grain field on July 24, 2011. Flanked by Germany, which is phasing out nuclear power, and Austria, which has already done so, the Czech Republic is pinning its future on atomic energy.

Flanked by Germany, which is phasing out nuclear power, and Austria, which has already done so, the Czech Republic is pinning its future on atomic energy.

The ex-communist republic of 10.5 million people, which now relies on nuclear for about 30 percent of its energy mix, is pushing an upgrade of its disputed Temelin plant and betting on getting at least half of its energy from the atom by 2025.

Twenty-three years after its launch, Temelin's Soviet-designed reactors still stir controversy among neighbours and , yet people living directly in their shadow are more circumspect.

"I'm not afraid of the power station," says Vaclav Hrabe in the kitchen of his modest house encircled by a small garden in Temelin, a village some 120 kilometres (75 miles) south of the capital Prague.

At 90, he's the oldest resident of the village, overshadowed by the four huge steaming concave cooling towers of the plant, which soar to a height of 155 metres (yards).

According to a recent survey, 72 percent of Temelin's 400 villagers back the planned additional two units at the power station, run by the CEZ state-run power giant.

The Czech environment ministry recently gave the go ahead for the lucrative project worth an estimated 200-300 billion koruna (7.8-11.7 billion euros, $10.2-15.3 billion).

US industrial giant is bidding for it against a group called MIR-1200, led by Russia's Atomstroiexport and backed by several Czech companies. France's Areva remains bitter over having been eliminated from the running late last year.

"The power station will grow bigger, just like the village. There are quite a few people who want to build a house and live here," says Hrabe, proud of his idyllic village in which the hulking seems completely out of place.

Dark clouds cover the sky over the four cooling towers of Temelin Nuclear Power Plant on July 24, 2011. Flanked by Germany, which is phasing out nuclear power, and Austria, which has already done so, the Czech Republic is pinning its future on atomic energy.

Temelin the village is also cashing in on Temelin the atomic facility.

"Every year, the power station gives Temelin 10 million koruna to boost its infrastructure. The village also gets 30 million koruna from CEZ a year in real estate tax," says Marek Svitak, spokesman for the plant.

Cheekily dubbed "Disneyland" by the locals owing to the colourful lights that illuminate the plant at night, the power station, launched in 2000, uses two Russian-era VVER pressurised-water reactors, with output of 1,000 megawatts each.

Coupled with CEZ's other nuclear plant in the southern village of Dukovany, Temelin covers 30 percent of energy consumption in the Czech Republic.

The two new reactors, expected to come online in 2025, will raise that share to 50 percent.

Just sixty kilometres (38 miles) to the south, Austria, which gave up in 1978, eyes the communist-era plant with grave concern.

But the Czech government, which holds a controlling stake in CEZ, says nuclear power is a strategic part of the Czech Republic's drive for energy self-sufficiency and has no intention of giving it up.

In his garden opposite Temelin's town hall, pensioner Frantisek Riha is among the minority of villagers who share Vienna's concern.

"Nobody has persuaded me the plant is safe," he says firmly, adding that emergency drills held four times a year were "stressful."

In Ceske Budejovice, a city just 30 kilometres from Temelin, environmentalist Monika Machova-Wittingerova is an avowed opponent of the plant.

"Nuclear power depends on activities that harm the environment, like uranium extraction and treatment," said the head of a protest movement dubbed the South Bohemian Mothers.

"There's also the unresolved problem of nuclear waste storage... and you can never fully rule out the risk of a serious accident," she added.

"We organise concerts in the memory of Chernobyl and Fukushima, but only few protest rallies because public opinion is rather lukewarm," Machova-Wittingerova admits.

Two years after Japan's March 11 Fukushima nuclear disaster which prompted EU heavyweight Germany to decide to shut down its nuclear plants in 2022, Prague remains undeterred.

Other ex-communist countries Poland and Lithuania keen to overcome their energy dependence on Soviet-era master Russia are also pushing ahead with nuclear facilities.

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User comments : 10

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dschlink
5 / 5 (4) Mar 19, 2013
Absolute certainty exists only in religions. For many, environmentalism is their religion.
ShotmanMaslo
4 / 5 (4) Mar 19, 2013
I live in a village near nuclear plant in neighbouring Slovakia, and the sentiment is similar. People are not afraid, Id say most have positive attitude towards nuclear.
Osiris1
3 / 5 (2) Mar 19, 2013
Luddites, and criminal luddites, like the poor, shall ever be with us to bedevil us, to shirk their own work even in the pursuit of these treasonous activities. CEZ will probably need to at least double the existing capacity, as energy prices will start to soar out of sight soon. Prices will go up as soon as the sellers of energy realize their foolish customers cannot go back [cannot restart their nuke plants]! Passive solar of the photovoltaic variety should become part of the mix in a massive drive at this time, while there IS time, to attain energy self sufficiency. Let recent American experience here be a guide. Oregon long ago forwent nuclear power. The anti-nuke 'noble sacrificers' having basked in their 20 minutes if fame and absconded, now the state was energy poor and the people howled about blackouts and brownouts...and sued Washington State in court to force them to sell power to Oregon's thirsty grid. Washington's power was and is nuclear! Hope you Czechs charge a LOT!
ValeriaT
1 / 5 (2) Mar 19, 2013
I'm from Czech and as you may expect, being a proponent of cold fusion and magnetic motors, I do consider the extension of Temelin nuclear plant as a complete waste of money, driven with Russian lobby in our country. We already belong into largest exporters of energy in the Central Europe (after Poland, which produces energy with burning of coal) and we don't require the extension of this nuclear plant for our economy at all. Somewhat paradoxically, the Austrians, who hate this nuclear plant very much belong into our best customers.
ValeriaT
1 / 5 (2) Mar 19, 2013
The Austria country has a good tradition in research of alternative technologies. If the Austrians really want to get rid off nuclear energy from Czech Republic, they should invest into research of magnetic motor technology, which would do the Temelin uncompetitive. Yildiz motor trailer
Jimee
not rated yet Mar 20, 2013
Without a liveable environment religions won't be around to argue about their certainties.
ValeriaT
1.5 / 5 (2) Mar 20, 2013
Due the complex terrain and climatic features of Czech basin and system of walleyes of Austria the Fukushima-like disaster would probably have a much more serious impact to the habitability of these countries. We have no ocean, where we could dissolve failed reactors like the Japanese did, or huge areas of Ukrainian steppe around Chernobyl, which could be evacuated. At the case of Temelin crash we would probably lost our homes for many years together with Austrians. And such a crash could be triggered with impact of single plane, controlled with terrorists. I do believe, the nuclear plants are reliable, but such a things simply CAN happen in the contemporary world and it has no meaning to cover it.
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Mar 24, 2013
People are not afraid, Id say most have positive attitude towards nuclear.

How exactly does an attitude protect from harm?

Now don't get me wrong: I'm not arguing whether nuclear is safe or not. However, basing the judgement of whether a technology should be pursued on a gut feeling isn't sensible - especially if the people whose gut feeling you're basing this on know nothing of the technology involved.
ValeriaT
1 / 5 (2) Mar 24, 2013
People are not afraid, Id say most have positive attitude towards nuclear
Only people in Czech - the people in Austria hate nuclear plants very much. It's the only country, which was able to nearly finish one nuclear plant - and after then to abandon this investment completely by public referendum.

It speaks for something by itself. The Czech and Poland are way less developed democracies and society in this matter and they're way less careful about the risk of nuclear energy with compare to Austria or lets say Germany. The main risk of nuclear plants is, they may serve as a cheap dirty targets of terrorists or military attacks. In future conflict just one bunker-buster bomb would make the whole central Europe inhabitable. Is the nuclear energy worth of such risk in the era of cold fusion and magnetic motors? I don't think so..
ShotmanMaslo
not rated yet Mar 25, 2013

How exactly does an attitude protect from harm?

Now don't get me wrong: I'm not arguing whether nuclear is safe or not. However, basing the judgement of whether a technology should be pursued on a gut feeling isn't sensible - especially if the people whose gut feeling you're basing this on know nothing of the technology involved.


I am not saying that the judgement should be based on this, of course.

And would you also say the same if the situation would be reversed and the people wouldnt want the plant? ;)

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