Výběr zpráv ze sítě NucNet - 25. týden 2013
Austria, ‘Faces Future Of Buying Nuclear From Abroad’
Germany’s decision to end its nuclear energy programme
will lead to higher prices for consumers and the need to
turn to neighbouring countries for help, says Prof
Helmuth Böck, president of the Austrian Nuclear Society.
NucNet: Can Austria survive without nuclear power?
HB: In Austria, there is a very strong anti-nuclear
attitude and it is like a religious war. But Austria is
lucky because about 60 percent of electricity production
is from domestic hydropower. We also have oil and gas,
but it is well-known that we use nuclear electricity from
neighbouring countries and it is estimated to be five to
10 percent of total consumption. Officially, nothing is
said about that – the population does not know, only
the ‘insiders’ do. So, yes, we do use nuclear
NucNet: Where does Austria buy its nuclear electricity
HB: We buy it from Germany and the Czech Republic. We use
cheap nuclear electricity or the night tariff to pump
water to our pump-storage high in the mountains during
the night and we use expensive, peak-load electricity
from hydropower stations for our own consumption or for
export to neighbouring countries.
NucNet: So you ‘create’ renewable electricity in this
HB: Yes, it is a magic transfer from nuclear electricity
to ‘green’ electricity.
NucNet: Do you think Austria’s goal of achieving 100
percent energy self-sufficiency with renewables is
HB: It is unrealistic because at the moment wind and
solar power contribute only three to four percent of
total generation. Also, the installed megawatts do not
mean anything because Austria’s wind generators for
instance only operate 20 percent of the year. What is
important is the megawatt-hours, which are rather small.
NucNet: How do you see the decision in Germany to
decommission nuclear power plants and its implications
for its neighbouring countries?
HB: This is the political decision of a single country
and it is a very interesting experiment to see whether
these green ideas can be practically realised and at what
cost. I heard that last year the cost of electricity for
an individual German family increased by 100 euros a
year. This will keep increasing because they have to
invest billions of euros in transmission lines. They have
to buy back-up energy from neighbouring countries. For
instance, the Czech Republic is planning to build
Temelin-3 and Temelin-4 and these units will be
cornerstones for supplying Germany with baseload.
The electricity from wind turbines fluctuates so much
that it disturbs the stability of the whole grid. Most of
the wind generators are in the north of Germany, while
the main consumers are in the south, in Bavaria. So, they
would have to build thousands of kilometres of
transmission lines at a very high price because nobody
wants these transmission cables in their backyard. NIMBY
– not in my back yard – applies to transmission lines
as well as nuclear power plants.
NucNet: So, they would be doing the same as Austria is
doing now – buying nuclear power from abroad?
HB: Yes, they will rely on neighbouring countries. I know
that some neighbouring countries – the Czech Republic
and Poland, for instance – are already complaining that
German wind production and its fluctuation brings
instability to their own grids. When wind electricity is
produced, it has to be transmitted and fed to the
electricity grid. But it cannot be stored so if there is
no demand it has to be exported. And in Germany there is
no possibility for pump storage like in Austria. Our
hydro-stations in the Alps help consume this excess
NucNet: What was the major obstacle to Zwentendorf
nuclear power plant* never being brought into operation
– public opinion or political rivalry?
HB: It was mainly political opposition. It is a long
story, but at the time the Chancellor was from the
Socialist Party and he said that if the Zwentendorf
referendum failed, he would resign. So, the opposition
party, the Christian-Democrats, wanted to use this
promise to vote against nuclear power. The Chancellor did
not keep his promise and he stayed in power and
Zwentendorf failed by a few thousand votes.
NucNet: Do you think a repetition of the referendum today
would bring a different result?
HB: The result would be even worse. There was a period
after the first referendum in 1978 when a second one was
planned, but this was when Chernobyl happened and then
everyone was against nuclear.
NucNet: Has your work at the Austrian Nuclear Society
brought changes to public opinion on nuclear energy?
HB: Yes, after Fukushima-Daiichi, we published a book on
issues on nuclear power and it is now being translated
into English. Our Young Generation is active within the
international group of Young Generation and we take part
in different discussions and hearings.
The problem is that those people who are against nuclear
power, which is the majority, are not interested in the
arguments. They believe that nuclear is bad and that is
it. It is very difficult to reach those hard-core
NucNet: How important is the involvement of the Young
Generation in the promotion of the education of young
people in nuclear technology and radioactivity?
HB: Several times we have had a “pupil-stay” where a
class of about 30 young people from the ages of 16-17
comes to our institute. We do experiments with them like
measuring radiation – alpha, beta, gamma – and they
can even start up a little research reactor. This is a
very efficient programme.
We have another interesting event this month. A school
near Vienna invites a school from the Czech Republic to
their town and they hold a one-day discussion on energy
issues. There are six subjects with a short presentation
from experts. I present the risks of energy sources and
then the students have to form groups – three Austrians
with three Czechs – and work on that subject and make a
presentation themselves. This is a good example of
NucNet: Does the presence of the International Atomic
Energy Agency in Vienna help spread awareness of the
benefits of nuclear power?
HB: Yes, definitely. We [the Institute of Atomic and
Subatomic Physics] are the closest nuclear facility to
the IAEA, and we have many projects together. We host
fellows, we have guest scientists and there are courses
we run. So, we can share resources with them and this is
We also train junior safeguards experts. When they are
hired from developing countries, they have to undergo a
one-year training programme and about six weeks of this
initial preparation takes place at our institute. We have
both theoretical and practical courses where they can
have their first real contact with nuclear technology.
NucNet: Is the lack of a commercial nuclear power plant
in Austria a handicap for your research?
HB: We have visits to Bohunice, Mochovce, Dukovany and
Temelin. In April this year, our Young Generation went to
Marcoule and to Superphenix in France. Once a year we
have a three-day excursion and last year they went to
Chernobyl. We do a lot of technical visits like this so
that young people and students can see the practical side
of nuclear energy.
It is also possible to visit Zwentendorf, even though it
is rather difficult because there are so many visitors
that if you book today, you may have to wait two or even
three months. It is a popular site and for us it is like
having a full-scale model to show people.
* The Zwentendorf nuclear power plant was the first
nuclear reactor built in Austria, one of six that were
originally planned. The plant, at Zwentendorf in
northeastern Austria, was finished, but never operated.
Start-up of the unit, as well as construction of the five
others, was stopped by a referendum on 5 November 1978,
in which 50.47 percent voted against operation of the
Helmuth Böck is president of the Austrian Nuclear
Society and a member of the NucNet board of directors.
Prof Böck has been president of the Austrian Nuclear
Society since it was founded in 1980. Prof Böck
graduated in 1966 in technical physics and obtained his
professorship in reactor safety in 1979. He was reactor
manager at the Vienna Research Reactor from 1967 to 2008.
From 1970 to 1978 he was an expert for the licensing of
the information and control systems at the Zwentendorf
plant. Since 1975 Prof Böck has served as an expert to
the International Atomic Energy Agency and has
accompanied more than 150 missions for research reactors.
Since 1999 he has also served as an expert to the EU on