July 17, 2001
Czechs Won't Close Nuclear Plant

Filed at 2:50 p.m. ET

 PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AP) -- A Czech government official rejected a call from Germany on Tuesday to close the Temelin nuclear power plant near the border with Austria and Germany.

 Czech Vice Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla told Czech radio that the Czech Republic, as ``a civilized country,'' is capable of guaranteeing all safety standards. ``Safety is a key issue for us,'' he said.

 The German government joined Austrian calls for the closure of the plant, citing safety concerns.

 Activated last October, the 2,000 megawatt Russian-designed plant is currently on standby due to technical problems with the main turbine generator and is expected to go back on line in August.

 Karel Kriz, spokesman for the Czech state energy concern CEZ that owns the plant, estimated losses of $2.75 billion should Temelin be shut down.

 ``It would either mean the company would face liquidation, or its value would drop significantly before privatization,'' he said. The privatization is slated for the fall.

 Meanwhile, opponents of the Temelin plant in Austria renewed their criticism of the facility, and government officials also repeated their concerns.

 Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner, currently on a visit in Warsaw, Poland, said she expected ``concrete steps'' for the safety of the Temelin reactor.

 The plant, located some 30 miles from the border with Austria, has sparked angry protests from Austrian anti-nuclear activists, who demand that it be shut down.

 The Czechs, however, maintain the plant meets all the international safety standards.

 ``As far as nuclear safety is concerned, there's no single reason to shut Temelin down,'' said Pavel Pittermann, spokesman for the State Office for Nuclear safety.