July 16, 2008

Nukes in Slovakia

EU commission under fire over Slovak nuclear project
EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - Green lawmakers in the European Parliament have criticised EU energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs for allowing the extended use of a Russian-designed nuclear power plant in Slovakia.
"It is scandalous that commissioner Piebalgs has given the green light to resurrect an outdated nuclear project," reads a joint statement issued by leading green MEPs, Monica Frassoni and Rebecca Harms.
[...] The critical statement came shortly after the European Commission on Tuesday (15 July) gave its opinion on the project of Slovenske Elektrarne - owned by Italian energy firm Enel and the Slovak state - to build two reactors for the Mochovce nuclear power plant in western Slovakia.
[...] It took one year for EU officials to assess "the safety and security aspects" of Slovakia's application to build new reactors, with the country's prime minister, Robert Fico, often expressing frustration over the lengthy process.
The discussions centred around whether Mochovce should have full containment - additional walls of concrete and steel protecting the reactor. This is not something that is required under international standards, but is considered by some as the best method of protection.
The two sides - Bratislava and Brussels - finally agreed that Mochovce's design did not allow for incorporation of a massive structure there. Instead, the commission recommended that the investor ensure "an equivalent level of protection as a full containment".
[...] The Brussels-made suggestions are non-binding and it is up to the investor whether and to what extent they are fulfilled, the commission spokesperson stressed. But the chief of the country's Nuclear Regulatory Authority, Marta Ziakova, said that the project will meet all safety and security parameters required by existing legislation.
The fact that the EU's executive body has settled for a substitution to the full containment structure - even an equivalent one - came under fire from Green MEPs, however.
"This [missing full containment] should have been reason enough for the commission to send a clear No to the Slovak government and Enel," said the Frassoni-Harms' statement.
It concluded by saying: "The European Commission is giving a green light on the basis of the 50-year-old Euratom treaty and a 20-year-old Slovak construction permit that does not respect the modern obligations for a public consultation and environmental impact assessment."

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