SPÖ adamant about anti-nuclear energy course

The Austrian Social Democrats (SPÖ) refuse to stop calling for a nuclear energy-free Europe.The party – which currently forms a government with the conservative People’s Party (ÖVP) – asked physicist and nuclear technology expert Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker to speak at its meeting in Schwechat near Vienna yesterday (Mon).The German warned that there were limits to the usage of renewable energy sources such as hydropower and photovoltaic systems. Von Weizsäcker – a nephew of former German President Richard von Weizsäcker – stressed companies and citizens must focus on stopping the ongoing wastage of energy.SPÖ Chancellor Werner Faymann recently presented ambitious plans to free the whole of Europe from nuclear power plants – a bid branded as illusory by many experts considering the political attitude and public opinion in France and several Eastern European (EE) countries.Faymann promised to press on with the issue in cooperation with Sigmar Gabriel, the head of the German Social Democrats (SPD) and other fellow Socialists across the continent. The SPÖ boss recently raised the issue when he met with European Union (EU) leaders. Faymann asked European Commission (EC) President Jose Manuel Barroso to back his move. However, the Portuguese rejected the Austrian’s appeals, pointing out that all questions regarding the choice of energy sources were solely federal issues.Faymann, ÖVP Environment Minister Nikolaus Berlakovich and ÖVP Economy Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner were angered when EU decision-makers recently opted for a scaled-down version of the discussed safety checks for the dozens of nuclear power facilities in Europe.The Austrian government members wanted countries which operate nuclear power plants to examine whether the facilities could withstand terror attacks and aviation traffic accidents. Such investigations will not be part of the upcoming so-called stress tests. Non-government organisations (NGO) accused the affected countries of trying to assign biased experts to carry out the checks in an attempt to avoid any kind of transparency.Austria’s political elite and the country’s populace felt confirmed of their unified opposition to nuclear power technology when such a plant located near Fukushima, Japan, was seriously devastated after a massive earthquake and a tsunami around two months ago.SPÖ energy issues spokesman Wolfgang Katzian said at yesterday’s party meeting political leaders should try to achieve an energy aspects turnaround which does without nuclear and coal power stations. The member of the Austrian parliament (MP) also called for an Austria-wide energy efficiency law. Katzian said politicians and businesspeople must draw the right conclusions from the disaster in Japan.Faymann previously claimed that the only sustainable thing about nuclear technology was its risk, while Von Weizsäcker refused to rule out yesterday that upcoming reforms of energy supply in Europe will include price hikes.Austrian research group Imas said last month that 47 per cent of Austrians would accept reduced air traffic services so European countries consume less energy. Imas also found that only 37 per cent of Germans said the same.The Imas poll revealed that nearly half the Austrians (47 per cent) and Germans (48 per cent) said they would be “badly affected” would the price for electricity rise by 50 per cent due to a focus on eco-friendly energy sources.Nearly one out of three Austrians (29 per cent) told Imas they would do without their car on two days a week to help save the environment in a reformed world as far as the choice of energy sources is regarded. Fewer than one in five Germans (19 per cent) said the same.There are no operating nuclear power stations on Austrian soil. A narrow majority of participating citizens spoke out against putting such a plant in operation in a referendum in 1978. The poll was controversially held after the facility had been constructed near the small town of Zwentendorf in Lower Austria.Late SPÖ figurehead Bruno Kreisky – who headed the government as chancellor at that time – campaigned in favour of nuclear technology. Kreisky labelled the issue as a referendum about his decision-making in general in a frantic bid to get a majority to say yes to Zwentendorf. His support for nuclear energy came on the back of the global oil crisis and fears of dramatic price jumps of energy products and services. Kreisky eventually accepted the people’s voice in what is considered as one of the biggest misjudgements of his long political career.