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Friday, 6 October, 2000, 14:40 GMT 15:40 UK
Austrians protest over Czech nuclear plant
Temelin plant
The Czechs say the plant meets international standards
Austrian anti-nuclear demonstrators are reported to have blocked all border crossings with the Czech Republic in protest against the imminent start-up of the Czech nuclear plant at Temelin.

The protesters say they will maintain their blockade until early evening.


Tractors and lorries have made it absolutely impossible to get through

Police spokesman Gerhard Haag
The action coincided with a request by the director of the plant to the Czech State Nuclear Safety Office for permission to begin activating the reactors.

The Czech authorities say they will reply within three days, but they are unlikely to refuse permission.

Austria, which rejected nuclear power in a referendum in 1978, has used all its influence to try to stop Temelin being brought into operation.

Czech criticism

It has even warned that it could veto Prague's application for EU membership if the Czechs fire up the plant.

Map
The plant lies 50km from the Austrian and German borders
"There are not yet many protesters here, but tractors and lorries have made it absolutely impossible to get through," said Gerhard Haag, a police spokesman at the major Wullowitz border crossing.

"We're expecting the bulk of the demonstrators to turn out during the afternoon," he added.

A spokesman for the Czech foreign ministry, Ales Pospisil, said the Austrian public had the right to express its opinion but not to block travel across one of the European Union's external borders.

German concern

In August, the German Government urged the Czech authorities to abandon plans to open the power station because of fears about the safety of its nuclear reactors.

But the Czech Nuclear Safety Office insisted that the reactor met international standards.

When Temelin is fully operative in 2002, it should be able to meet 20% of the country's power needs.

The plant lies about 50km from both the Austrian and German borders, and has already prompted environmental protests in both countries.

Austria is nuclear-free while Germany, after months of talks with its nuclear power industry, recently agreed on a timetable to phase out its nuclear power plants.

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See also:

15 Jun 00 | Business
Nuclear power nightmare
15 Jun 00 | Europe
Nuclear doubts gnaw deeper
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