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Nuclear extension sparks Austrian meltdown

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Nuclear extension sparks Austrian meltdown
Photo: DPA
14:59 CEST+02:00
Germany's plan to extend the lives of its nuclear reactors has upset neighbouring Austria, where a environmental official has warned that a reactor near the border poses clear “safety risks.”

Rudi Anschober, environment minister for the state of Upper Austria, which borders Bavaria, also warned that the Austrian Federal Government was preparing to attack Germany's plan.

The extension of the “Isar I” nuclear reactor at Essenbach, which lies about 100 kilometres from the border with Austria, was “not responsible,” Anschober said on Tuesday in Linz.

Christian Social Union city councillors in Landshut, the southeast Bavarian city, also demanded the ageing reactor be closed down quickly.

Anschober warned that many expert assessments showed that “safety risks” clearly remained with older reactors such as Isar I. Extending the running times was only possible under very strict conditions, he said, and added that he was counting on the federal and Bavarian governments to be reasonable and ready to discuss the issue.

He also warned that opposition to the extension would continue and further expert assessments would be sought.

“We are a broad alliance to reckon with,” he said.

Anschober added that the Austrian federal government was also preparing a statement calling for a quick closure of the Isar I reactor.

The German government decided at the weekend to extend the operating time on Germany's reactors by an average of 12 years. Newer reactors will remain in operation for an extra 14 years and the older ones an extra eight.

Isar I fired up in 1977 and, under the previous scheme to phase out Germany's reactors by 2020, would have been decommissioned next year. Now it will run until 2019.

Anschober said there had been a “decision for the profit interests of the atomic energy lobby and against safety concerns.”

Austria's federal Environment Minister Niki Berlakovich has previously said Germany's nuclear extension was a “serious setback for renewable energy” and atomic energy was no solution to climate change.

The government's decision has also raised the prospect of fiercely renewed blockades and protests against nuclear waste transport and disposal. Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition has so far not announced how it will deal with the extra waste generated by the extension of the reactors' lifespans.

One possibility is expanding the waste dump at Gorleben in the Lüchow-Dannenberg district of Lower Saxony – a possibility that has long been debated.

Though there has been no decision on Gorleben, Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen said Monday he felt it was his “duty to solve the problem.”

But the revival of the Gorleben extension plan was only a phony solution to waste disposal, said Wolfgang Ehmke from the Lüchow-Dannenberg Citizens Initiative for Ecological Protection.

Environmentalists also vowed to blockade the next waste transport to Gorleben, where two interim waste storage units currently sit. A shipment of waste is expected in November and many environmentalists planned to take decisive action, said Luise Neumann-Cosel, a spokeswoman for the group X-tausendmal quer.

It was clear in Gorleben “that thousands of people are ready to breach the boundaries to peacefully resist the irresponsible nuclear policies of the coalition,” she said.

DAPD/The Local/dw (news@thelocal.de)

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