Austrian courts cannot shut Temelin

27 October 2009

An Austrian legal challenge to the operation of the Czech Republic's Temelin nuclear power plant has ended with a ruling that courts have no authority over another member state.


Temelin (Image: CEZ)
A case had been brought under an Austrian law that states a landowner can prohibit his neighbour from causing nuisance emanating from the latter's land if it exceeds normal local levels and significantly interferes with the usual use of the land. If the nuisance is caused by an officially authorized installation, the landowner is entitled to bring court proceedings for compensation.


In a bid to close the Temelin plant 60 kilometres over the border, the Land Oberösterreich (Province of Upper Austria) made an application under this law to the Landesgericht Linz (Linz Regional Court), claiming that ionizing radiation and the risk of an accident was spoiling use of its agricultural land.


However, the regional court has now been told it has no power over organisations operating in another EU member state, after it sought clarification from the European Court of Justice (ECJ).


In a statement, the ECJ said: "Austria cannot justify the discrimination practised in respect of the official authorization granted in the Czech Republic for the operation of the Temelin nuclear power plant on the ground that it is necessary for protecting life, public health, the environment or property rights."


With reference to the Euratom Treaty the ECJ, "The existing community legislative framework, of which that authorization forms a part, contributes precisely and essentially towards ensuring the protection of those values. Thus that difference in treatment cannot be regarded as either necessary or proportionate for the purposes of protection.


Work started to build the Temelin plant in 1982, with two VVER-1000 type V-320 reactors, designed by Russian organisations and Energoproject and built by VSB with engineering by Skoda Praha. Construction was delayed and when it resumed in the mid 1990s, Westinghouse instrument and control systems were incorporated. The reactors started up in 2000 and 2002, with the upgrading having been financed by CEZ with a loan from the World Bank. In August, CEZ has launched a public tender for a contractor for two new reactors at Temelin.