nuclear-news

The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry Fukushima Chernobyl Mayak Three Mile Island Atomic Testing Radiation Isotope

A Tale of Two Nuclear Plants Reveals Europe’s Energy Divide

An upgraded power plant in Slovakia has angered neighboring Austria and fueled the debate over nuclear power and  independence from Russian gas.

Wired, MORGAN MEAKER, DEC 13, 2022

……………………………………….. Europe remains deeply divided on the use of nuclear power. Of the European Union’s 27 member states, 13 generate nuclear power, while 14 do not. “It’s still a very national debate,” says Bunsen. That means public attitudes can drastically change from one side of a border to the other. Surveys show that 60 percent of Slovakians believe nuclear power is safe, while 70 percent of their neighbors in Austria are against it being used at all—the country has no active nuclear plants.

……… workers are preparing a new reactor—where nuclear fission will take place—for launch in early 2023. 

…………..  Europe remains deeply divided on the use of nuclear power. Of the European Union’s 27 member states, 13 generate nuclear power, while 14 do not. “It’s still a very national debate,” says Bunsen. That means public attitudes can drastically change from one side of a border to the other. Surveys show that 60 percent of Slovakians believe nuclear power is safe, while 70 percent of their neighbors in Austria are against it being used at all—the country has no active nuclear plants.

For the two neighbors, Mochovce has become a focal point in the debate over how Europe should transition away from fossil fuels. To supporters in Slovakia, Mochovce’s expansion—the launch of Unit Three is expected to be followed two years later by Unit Four—demonstrates how even a small country can become an energy heavyweight. Unit Three will make Slovakia the second-largest producer of nuclear power in the EU, after France. But neighboring Austrians cannot ignore what they consider to be the drawbacks: the mammoth costs associated with building or improving aging facilities, the problems associated with disposing of nuclear waste, and the sector’s reliance on Moscow for uranium, the fuel which powers the reactor. Last year, the EU imported one fifth of its uranium from Russia. 

For years, politicians and activists in Austria have also alleged that Mochovce is not safe, with local newspapers using maps to illustrate how close Mochovce is to Vienna: just 150 kilometers. “It’s a Soviet design from the 1980s, without a proper containment,” claims Reinhard Uhrig, an antinuclear campaigner with Austrian environmental group GLOBAL 2000. The containment is one of a series of safety systems that prevents radioactive material being released into the environment in case of an accident. “Apart from these inherent design problems, there have been major issues with the quality control of the works,” he says, describing nuclear power as a dangerous distraction from real solutions to the climate crisis.  

Concerns in Austria about Mochovce’s safety were exacerbated by Mario Zadra, an engineer turned whistleblower who worked on Mochovce units Three and Four between 2009 and 2018. Zadra alleges the plant’s emergency diesel generators were suffering serious technical issues and cooling towers fundamental for safety were built with the wrong material. “Other components important for safety, like the main steam isolation valves, were in a shameful condition,” says Zadra, whose video and photo evidence have been verified by GLOBAL 2000. Since Zadra and other whistleblowers went public in 2018, Mochovce has been accused of corruption, raided by police, and inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency.  “I’m sure things have improved since the inspections,” Zadra says, but he still doesn’t believe the plant is safe due to what he calls the company’s “poor safety culture.”

………………………………….. Long-term, Austria is aiming to run 100 percent on renewables by 2030. Wind, solar, and hydro power currently account for 77 percent of the country’s power generation.

Austria is now agitating to spread its antinuclear message on an EU level. Officials have criticized nuclear power plants not just in Slovakia, but also in other neighboring countries, including the Czech Republic and Hungary. On New Year’s Eve 2021, the European Commission released a proposal which defined nuclear as well as natural gas as “green investments.” In response, Austria launched a legal challenge, calling for the inclusion of the two energy sources to be annulled. “Neither nuclear energy nor fossil gas are green investments,” says Gewesseler.

Zwentendorf and Mochovce demonstrate the extremes of Europe’s nuclear power debate. But between those extremes, it’s messy. The EU might have agreed to become the first climate-neutral continent by 2050, but consensus on how that will happen remains elusive. Weish, the Austrian scientist, believes there’s a lot more debating to be done. “The EU needs to have the debate Austria had back in the 1970s,” he says.  https://www.wired.com/story/nuclear-energy-europe/

Advertisement

December 14, 2022 - Posted by | EUROPE, politics international

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: