Controversial Czech nuclear power plant suffers leak

The Czech nuclear power plant at Temelin, which led to Austrian border closures before even being fully operational, has leaked several cubic metres of radioactive water.

A spokesperson for the plant, Milan Nebesar, said the water escaped during reactor tests but that it was retained within the safety shell of the reactor and that radiation levels were very low. He added that there was no danger to staff or to the environment. He added that the leak was an operational mistake rather than a fault in the system, and that the clean-up had already been completed. “The water was slightly radioactive,” Nebesar told press. “The levels of radiation did not reach even the lowest classification of a radiation event.”

The plant was bitterly opposed during construction by neighbouring Austria, and has suffered various technical setbacks. On 5 Jun, German energy giant Eon ended an energy supply contract with Temelin. Although neither party would comment directly, a spokesman for Temelin’s operator CEZ referred to “political tensions between Austria with the Federal Republic of Germany and the Czech Republic in the field of the power industry, ” as the reason for the demise of the contract. Germany’s influential green movement had been urging municipalities to end contracts with Eon if it continued to take power from Temelin.

Temelin has been the source of bitter dispute with strongly anti-nuclear Austria and Germany (see related story), both with borders less than 50km away. Doubts centred on Temelin’s two Russian-designed, 981 megawatt VVER-1,000 reactors, which were combined with a US-made control system. Ministers from both countries argued that the Soviet-era reactor does not meet Western safety standards. German Environment Minister Juergen Trittin went as far as to suggest the Czech Republic’s imminent entry to the EU might be put in doubt because Temelin had not undergone environmental tests as required in European law. The Czech government has denied the accusations.

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