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Czechia vs Austria: nuclear energy and radars

You might think that all environmentalists have already switched to the anti-greenhouse religion and they should therefore prefer nuclear energy over fossil fuels. You would be wrong.

This is the Temelín nuclear power plant producing 2x 1000 MW of energy. Its late Soviet nuclear core is combined with American gadgets to control the device from Westinghouse. The plant is situated in Southern Bohemia about 30 miles from the border with an anti-nuclear country called Austria. This distance makes the plant more controversial than a somewhat older type of a Soviet nuclear power plant located in Dukovany, Moravia.

Austrian environmental activists have been doing all possible nasty things against the power plant including border blockades. Very recently, this has convinced the Austrian government to accept some of their demands. This surrender has intensified the activists' belief that border blockades are a great idea: it is an extremely dangerous decision to surrender to extremists, even if it is only by a little bit. At any rate, we should no longer talk about activists: what they represent seems to be an exaggerated version of the official Austrian attitude. Temelín is not necessarily flawless - what is? - but the accusations about nuclear insecurity are only substantiated by irrational fears.

Electricity: numbers

Let me now mention some basic annual numbers as of 2004 or 2005 describing the electricity in Czechia / Austria (in this order) in billions of kWh (or percent if indicated). The countries have comparable populations:

  • electricity production: 79 / 65
    • fossil fuels: 76% / 30%
    • hydro: 3% / 67%
    • nuclear: 20% / 0%
    • other: 1% / 3%
  • consumption: 59 / 65
  • exports: 25 / 18
  • imports: 10 / 20
You can see that the consumption is comparable. Because of certain geographical reasons, Austria can obtain 67% of its energy from hydro sources while Czechia needs 76% from fossil fuels.

Austria must import some - 2 billion kWh - energy every year. Czechia is a clear exporter - 15 billion kWh. At any rate, one can't afford to close the nuclear power plant because the energy would be missing. Someone would have to produce it elsewhere - probably by burning more fossil fuels - otherwise blackouts similar to the recent ones would follow.

In this moderate tension, Karel Schwarzenberg, the Czech minister of foreign affairs who could also be a member of the German or Austrian government if he wanted - which is both great as well as controversial under different circumstances - remained a defender of the Czech dignity. With a delicate aristocratic diplomacy, he indicated that the blockades are not the optimal way to improve the relationships between the countries.


Temelín is not the only thing that is going to cause tension in the Czech-Austrian relations. On Monday, the U.S. and the Czech Republic will start negotiations about the radar base in Brdy, Central Bohemia. Why is this another source of tension? Well, Russia views the base as something that threatens its security and it even suggested that they could attack the base - which is of course ludicrous because that would be an attack against the U.S. Needless to say, if the U.S. can't guarantee security to the Czech ally in the case of an attack against the radar base, the project will die.

However, it is not just Russia. There are all possible countries around where the anti-American sentiments are stronger than in the Czech Republic (and my father was just explaining me that among many older ordinary Czechs he knows, these negative sentiments are strong anyway). However, Schwarzenberg argued that Austria should be grateful to Czechs because the base could potentially protect them, too. Needless to say, Schwarzenberg is right.

I just think that all these anti-nuclear, anti-energy, anti-growth, anti-capitalist, anti-greenhouse-effect, anti-American, anti-everything people have gotten far more influential than they should be and someone should deal with them much more aggressively than what we're seeing right now.

And that's the memo.

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