Ever since the launch of Temelin in the fall of last year, Czech-Austrian relations have suffered with many people in nuclear-free Austria questioning the safety of the plant. Critics of the plant say it is dangerous because it is an untested hybrid of old Soviet technology and Western safety systems. Adding fuel to the fire, operators have been forced to shut the plant down on numerous occasions due to technical hitches, with the most recent total shut down being in September of this year, when the State Office for Nuclear Safety admitted there were technical problems at the power station.
But in November the long-running row between Prague and Vienna calmed when Czechs agreed to new stricter safety measures and the Austrians promised not to block the Czech Republic's accession talks with the European Union. However, members of the Austrian government's junior coalition partner - the Austrian Freedom Party, disapprove of the agreement and want the plant to be shut down. They continue to lobby for a referendum against the Czech Republic joining the European Union, whilst Temelin's operators continue to prepare the plant for full use. In fact, for a week now the power station has been running one of its reactors at 90%, pumping out more than 800 megawatts of electricity. Though the plant is running, full operation is not expected until March of next year, when hundreds of operational tests are to be completed.
Austrian opponents to the plant have demonstrated in many ways over the last couple of years. But this Christmas they protested in a more original manner. No border blockades, no crowds, instead eleven anti-Temelin activists walked 6 days and 200 kilometres from the Austrian town of Zwentendorf, to erect a Christmas tree and eat a Christmas dinner of beans and gulas stew, outside the Temelin nuclear power plant on Christmas Eve. The protesters said they wished to show the Czech nation that they were friends and as friends they wanted to show Czechs that the Temelin nuclear power plant was outdated and unsafe.
Hopefully, this is the beginning of a new tradition- a friendly relationship between protesters and the plant. The plant is showing some good will to- over the holidays no technical problems have been announced.
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