Vienna, April 17 (RFE/RL) - Slovakia's Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar has given a go-ahead to a controversial nuclear power plant in the Slovak Republic just 100 kms from Vienna.
Meciar signed a contract in Bratislava yesterday with the
German-based worldwide engineering firm Siemens and the French
company Framatom to complete construction of the Mochovce nuclear
power generating station according to Russian design.
The plant's first reactor is not due to go on line until 1998, but
the project already has generated international opposition.
Austria has led the way, charging that the design falls short of Western safety standards, has been insufficiently researched, and will be subject to unmeasured earthquake hazards. Government leaders in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland have joined in the opposition. Denmark, Luxembourg and Ireland also have registered official disapproval.
Austria's Green Party claims to have obtained a secret report by
Slovakia's own atomic energy authority citing faulty welding seams in
cooling systems already constructed, widespread rusting of essential
parts, poor quality concrete, and other deficiencies.
In a 1978 referendum, Austria became the only country to outlaw
nuclear power. This disaffection continues to the present. In rare
unanimity, politicians from all five of Austria's political parties
voted in opposition to Mochovce during a special session of
parliament. They favored a motion to consider withdrawing from the
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development if it supports the
project with a loan.
Hungarian environmentalists say their country is especially at risk
because because prevailing winds blow toward Hungary.
Memories of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster fuel anxieties raised by the Mochovce revival. The two VER-448/213 reactors at Mochovce are to
have no containment structure. Thus,. any accidentally released
radiation would go directly into the atmosphere.
In yesterday's signing ceremony, Meciar defended against the plant's critics. His statement said in part:
"We trust the technical knowledge of renowned companies such as
Siemens, Framatome, and Electricite de France. We trust Russian
companies. We trust our Czech suppliers. We trust the (International
Atomic Energy Authority) experts."
Construction at Mochovce began in 1984 in the former
communist-governed Czechoslovakia. It was halted in 1991 for lack of
financing. Proponents say the plant is needed to replace aging
reactors at nearby Bohunice.