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EIA Mochovce 3, 4 accepted - GP will go to court

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jan Haverkamp, Greenpeace energy campaigner

On May 4, Ministry of Environment in Slovakia accepted the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the Mochovce 3 and 4 nuclear power project. Greenpeace will appeal this decision in court. The two nuclear reactors that are under construction in Mochovce in South Slovakia are of the 1970s VVER 440/213 design and received a building permit in 1986. Among others, this outdated design misses a so called secondary containment and therefore crucial protection against leakage of nuclear material after a large accident as well as against malevolent attack from outside.

Originally, the Slovak government and Mochovce operator Slovenske Elektrarne, which is 67% owned by the Italian electricity giant ENEL, did not want to do an EIA at all. In 2008 they conceded to pressure from environmental organisations, the neighbouring countries Hungary and Austria as well as the European Commission. An EIA is to build the basis for the environmental justification of the project - it has to assess which impacts the project will have on the environment and whether these impacts can be justified in comparison with alternatives.

The Aarhus Convention, which delivers the legal basis for Environmental Impact Assessments, stipulates that public participation processes like the EIA have to be carried out when all options are still open. Only in that way, conclusions from the EIA procedure can be reflected in the project and only in that way information and opinions on the project can be assessed without pressure of possible loss of investments. Still, SE / ENEL started construction of Mochovce 3,4 in November 2008 in spite of the EIA procedure only just having started. With this, the EIA procedure is in breach with the Slovak law on EIA, the EU Directive on EIAs and the Aarhus Convention.

The EIA report furthermore lacks crucial information to enable the above mentioned justification. SE / ENEL refused to include alternatives, the environmental impacts of fuel production and radioactive wastes, as well as infrastructure projects involved in securing cooling water. Beyond design accidents were not analysed and a part from Hungary that lies within the 30 km emergency zone was conveniently excluded as well.

Greenpeace will appeal the decision of the Ministry of Environment in court. There is already a complaint against the EIA procedure running for the Aarhus Compliance Committee in Geneva, which is expected to come with a verdict before summer. Also the European Commission is investigating the process.

Greenpeace is furthermore already in court because of a conflict of interest of the auditor of the final EIA report. The Ministry of Environment had hired the DECOM consultancy for that task, which is 100% owned by the main construction contractor for Mochovce, VUJE.

The Slovak Parliament changed recently the law on access to information as well as the nuclear law, preventing the public access to any nuclear information - again in breach with EU Directives and the Aarhus Convention.

Jana Burdova, spokes person of Mochovce, said today that "this is the last step in the EIA process". Unlikely so. The court case will take several  months at least. In Bulgaria, a comparible court case took more than four years.

Source and contact: Jan Haverkamp, Greenpeace energy campaigner expert on energy issues in Central Europe.
Tel: +32 2 27419 21