Anti-nuclear energy protest in Vienna

Hundreds of activists and worried citizens gathered to demonstrate against nuclear energy technology in Vienna yesterday (Mon).Around 1,000 people joined the event which was organised by environment protection organisation Global 2000 in the city centre of the Austrian capital. Members of the ruling Social Democrats (SPÖ), Greens chief Eva Glawischnig and representatives of non-government organisations (NGO) held speeches against the threat of nuclear disasters in Europe in the wake of the detonations at the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan, last month.Political leaders in Austria have shown unusual unity in their approach to the issue. There are no nuclear power plants on Austrian soil. A narrow majority spoke out against putting a plant in Zwentendorf, Lower Austria, into operation in a referendum in 1978. Activities at a nuclear research reactor in Seibersdorf near Vienna stopped operating nine years ago.Many Austrians are especially concerned about some of the safety of nuclear power stations situated just a few kilometres from countries’ borders with Austria. The four reactors near Dukovany in the Czech Republic are closest to Austria at 40 kilometres, while the country’s disputed Temelin nuclear power plant is around 65 kilometres from the Czech-Austrian border.NGOs have also voiced concerns regarding the safety of the nuclear power station in Krsko, Slovenia, as it is situated in an area which is likely to experience earthquakes. Switzerland’s nuclear power generation sites are meanwhile not in the focus of critics in Austria, while the following of activists demonstrating against plants in Slovakia and Hungary is increasing.SPÖ Chancellor Werner Faymann recently promised to launch a Europe-wide initiative against nuclear power plants in cooperation with the German Social Democrats (SPD) of Sigmar Gabriel, while the Greens stressed they always opposed nuclear power technology.Many Green MPs and members of the right-wing Freedom Party (FPÖ) have called on former People’s Party (ÖVP) Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel to step down as MP due to his post in the supervisory board of Germany’s nuclear power technology-endorsing electricity provider RWE. A vast majority of 97 per cent of RWE shareholders elected Schüssel for another five years to the firm’s supervisory panel in a general assembly in Essen last week. The ex-foreign minister receives up to 100,000 Euros per year from the energy sector giant, according to the Austrian Greens.