The controversial Temelin nuclear power plant in south Bohemia could be re- started within a matter of hours, following a month-long shutdown due to technical problems. Temelin's spokesman Milan Nebesar told journalists on Friday that the first reactor was ready for re-launch and operators were waiting for the green light from the Czech Nuclear Energy Agency. If the agency gives its approval on Friday, nuclear reaction could begin some time on Saturday. The plant was shut down in mid-January, due to vibrations in the piping of one of the plant's turbines. The most recent failure has delayed by at least one month the planned launch of commercial operation scheduled for May of this year. The outcome of an environmental impact study on Temelin should be made public before the plant makes the transition from trial to commercial operation.
Austrian Greenpeace activists have described the Czech authorities' plans to re- launch Temelin as "a provocation". The spokesman for the Austrian branch of Greenpeace, Erwin Mayer, has called on the public to sign petitions calling for the Austrian government to boycott electricity from the Czech nuclear power station.
Meanwhile, Global 2000, an Austrian environmental organisation, has hotly denied accusations from Prague that it was behind the smuggling of two radiation emitters into the Czech Republic with the intention of spreading panic amongst the Czech public. The emitters were confiscated at an Austrian-Czech border crossing from a German citizen several weeks ago. Global 2000 admitted that it had installed several Geiger counters on private property in the vicinity of the Temelin and Dukovany power plants but said those were merely there for public safety. Although a Global 2000 spokesman admitted that such devices were sometimes tested with the help of radiation emitters he repeated that Global 2000 was not behind the attempted smuggling of the two devices.
Vratislav Sima, an aide to the Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman, is to be charged with slander in connection with so-called Operation Lead, an alleged attempt to discredit one of the country's most popular politicians, Petra Buzkova of the Social Democrats. Operation Lead exploded onto the Czech political scene late last year when someone leaked to journalists a file of highly damaging information on Mrs Buzkova, including allegations of co-operation with the former communist secret police and child abuse. During an investigation the journalists involved claimed that the file had been copied from a computer belonging to an aide of the Prime Minister. The man in question then accused Vratislav Sima of having compiled the document. Petra Buzkova has dismissed the material as "a pack of lies", saying she was shocked that political opponents could stoop so low. There has since been a great deal of speculation on whether members of Mrs Buzkova's own party were trying to discredit her in the eyes of the public.
Bailiffs forced their way into Vladimir Zelezny's private residence and gallery on Friday after a Prague court ordered the freezing of all assets belonging to the TV magnate. While employees at the gallery in Dlouha street, from which a number of paintings were alleged to have been smuggled on Thursday, let the bailiffs in without protest, a locksmith had to be summoned to allow them access to Mr Zelezny's private residence. They are reported to have left after making a list of the owner's possessions. Vladimir Zelezny's bank accounts have also been frozen. The Czech TV mogul, who heads the hugely successful private TV Nova, is currently involved in a bitter struggle with the American firm CME, which helped Mr. Zelezny establish the station in the early 1990s. An international court of arbitration recently ordered Zelezny to pay CME 27 million dollars in compensation and since he failed to comply CME asked a Prague court to enforce the order.
President Havel, who has hospitalised with bronchitis and indications of pneumonia on February 12th, is reported to be on the mend and is likely to be released from hospital within the next two days. The president's chief physician Ilya Kotik told journalists on Friday that the results of an examination confirmed the retreat of inflammatory changes in the centre lobe of the right lung. Doctors had planned to discharge Mr. Havel last Monday but a sudden re-lapse forced them to extend his treatment.
Prague's Ruzyne Airport, which was closed down due to heavy snow in the early hours of Friday, is now fully operational. Clear skies and several hours of sunshine helped maintenance crews across the Czech Republic deal with the piles of snow that paralysed life in many parts of the country. The Czech Republic's main motorway between Prague and Brno has now been re-opened and all main roads have been cleared. Friday night's snow-showers dumped up to 70cms of fresh snow in the mountains but weekend skiing will be restricted by avalanche alerts.
A police officer is reported to have shot dead a pit-bull terrier after it attacked a couple walking a dog in Prague 8. The pit-bull, which had been running wild, attacked the couple after getting into a fight with their smaller dog. The police officer, who had already been alerted by phone about a stray pit-bull in the area, arrived on the scene in time to prevent serious injuries and shot the dog when it turned to attack him as well. Cases of dogs attacking people have appeared in the media with increasing frequency and evoked much public concern but law- makers' attempts to address the problem have not so far proved successful.
Friday night will be cold and overcast, with temps dropping to minus seven degrees Celsius and snow in most parts of the country. Saturday and Sunday should bring more snow showers, so if you are heading for the mountains for a weekend of skiing make sure you don't leave without chains and a shovel, and be prepared for some problems on the road.
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