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Friday, 15 September, 2000, 16:39 GMT 17:39 UK
Anti-nuclear protest on Czech border
Map of Czechoslovakia
Anti-nuclear protesters temporarily blocked all 26 border crossings between Austria and the Czech Republic.

They were demonstrating against a new Czech nuclear power station at Temelin in southern Bohemia, which the authorities plan to bring into operation at the end of this month.

Vehicles were forced to queue during the two hour protest. In a separate development, traffic queues of several hours have been reported on the German side of the Czech border.

Reports from Prague say Czech immigration officials are taking longer than usual to deal with incoming traffic, because of security concerns in advance of a World Trade Organisation meeting in Prague next week.

Coming on stream

Activists are concerned that the Soviet-designed reactors - similar to those involved in the 1986 Chernobyl disaster - are unsafe.

On Thursday, the plant's operators, CEZ, said it had begun to raise the temperature in one of the reactors, bringing it closer to coming on stream.

There have been a wave of protests in recent weeks against the plant - on 2 September, about 3,000 protesters blocked border crossings on the Austrian frontier for six hours.

Demonstrations in July culminated with two Czech nuclear inspectors illustrating their misgivings by symbolically placing their heads on a chopping block outside their offices in Prague.

Protesters say they wish to "show their anger over irresponsible nuclear policies advocated by the Czech Government"

Safety fears

The Czech authorities say the plant has been rigorously modified, and built with the backing of the Anglo-American Westinghouse Electric Company.

But, despite these assurances, the German Government called last month on the Czech Republic to consider delaying the station's opening.

And Austria, which is nuclear-free, has threatened to block the Czech Republic's entry into the European Union if the plant opens as scheduled.

Czech anti-nuclear campaigners say the plant would fail safety checks in Germany, and have welcomed the moves to halt its opening.

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See also:

02 Sep 00 | Europe
Nuclear protesters block border
23 Jun 00 | Europe
German Greens back nuclear deal
15 Jun 00 | Business
Nuclear power nightmare
15 Jun 00 | Europe
Nuclear doubts gnaw deeper
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