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Interfax: Temelin nuclear plant water leaks to have political ramifications - interview with Czech Dep Minister

15.3.2007 17:33

PRAGUE. MARCH 15. INTERFAX CENTRAL EUROPE - Two recent cooling water leaks at the Czech Republic's Temelin nuclear power plant will have serious negative consequences on ongoing Czech-Austrian talks concerning the facility, Czech Deputy Industry and Trade minister Tomas Huner told Interfax Wednesday night.

"These breakdowns will very much harm bilateral communication," Huner said, adding that both breakdowns had been caused by a human error and that they were not due to a systemic technological flaw.

"They came at a wrong moment," Huner added.

Both leakages occurred at Temelin's first unit, which has been out of operation since late January due to fuel replacement.

The ministry is currently reviewing the Czech government's final report on the Melk Agreement, which was signed with the Austrian government in 2001. The agreement calls for providing Austria with extensive information about Temelin safety issues. Temelin is located in the Czech Republic, but near the Austrian border.

Under the agreement, Austria pledged not to block Czech accession to the European Union over the Temelin issue in exchange for having access to detailed information concerning security at the 2,000 MWe power plant.

Austrian officials and pressure groups have been calling for the closing of the power plant - a mix of Soviet-era "Chernobyl-type" technology and Western safety modifications - located 60 kilometers (35 miles) north of the Austrian border since construction began in the mid-1980s.

The Czechs insist the plant is in line with European security standards.

"[The report] should be the last dot closing a non-standard relationship," Huner said. "We are glad that the agreement was fulfilled and hope that the Austrian side will not insist on continuing the non-standard communication."

Czech Industry and Trade Minister Martin Riman met with the CEO of Temelin's owner, government-controlled power utility CEZ Martin Roman, as well as with Environment Minister Martin Bursik, Chairwoman of the Czech Nuclear Security Office (SUJB) Dana Drabova and Temelin's Director Vladimir Hlavinka Thursday morning to discuss the leaks, which had given rise to a new wave of concerns about the plant's safety.

"General Director Roman assured me that Temelin is absolutely safe that its management had taken immediate measures in reaction to the recent breakdowns," Riman said in a press release following the meeting. "The leakages of slightly radioactive water were caused by human factor and not due to systemic or technical flaws. "CEZ has submitted to us today 14 technical and organizational measures, which would minimize such incidents."

CEZ and SUJB pledged to prepare a detailed report on the measures and submit them to the government within one month, according to Bursik.

In December, Austrian parliamentarians demanded their government "initiate all possible international legal actions" if the Czech government did not submit documents proving Temelin's security had been improved.

Huner said that the leakages may put additional pressure on the Austrian Prime Minister to succumb to the demands.


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