NIRS and WISE both celebrate their 25th anniversaries this year. This is the ninth article in a series, "25 years ago", comparing anti-nuclear news "then" and "now", to mark our first quarter-century of anti-nuclear campaigning.
In issue 2 of the WISE Bulletin we wrote about an upcoming referendum in Austria: "Austria is to hold a referendum on November 5 on whether to go nuclear or not. [...] Austria's first reactor at Zwentendorf, only 35 km west of Vienna, is virtually ready to come into operation". (WISE Bulletin 2, July 1978)
In the 1978 referendum, 50.47% voted against the opening of Zwentendorf. The NPP had been under construction since 1972 and fuel for the reactor was delivered by helicopters in 1978 due to heavy protests around the site. In the 1970's a total of three NPP was planned for Austria. Presently, only a few research reactors are operational in the country. (www.global2000.at)
In the early 1980's the Social-Democrats (SPÖ), at that time government coalition member together with the Freedom Party (FPÖ), wanted to overturn the 1978 outcome by holding a second referendum but failed due to resistance from the FPÖ. (WISE News Communique 534, 15 September 2000)
In November 1997, an anti-nuclear package was discussed between Austrian anti-nuclear NGOs and the government and accepted in the council of Austrian Ministries. According to the anti-nuclear package a law was adopted which laid down the anti-nuclear policy of Austria; the storage of foreign waste was forbidden; Austria would make an issue of the phase out of nuclear energy in the talks on EU-accession countries negotiations; and push for more research money on renewable energy in the EU. (WISE News Communique 483-4, 19 December 1997)
In recent years, Austria has often demonstrated against the Czech Temelin NPP and made it an issue in the talks of the European Union with the Czech Republic on accession to the EU. However, it did not use its right to veto Czech's accession.
Despite their opposition to dangerous nuclear reactors in neighbouring countries, 12.5% of the electricity in Austria comes from nuclear imports. This amount has grown since the electricity market was liberalized. (WISE News Communique 534, 15 September 2000)
In 2003, a countrywide petition ("Volksbegehren") was held to force the government to oppose the use of nuclear energy in the EU. The petition was sponsored by Greenpeace Austria and forces the government to debate an amendment to the Austrian constitution in parliament. At the closing date, 17 June, an amount of 131,853 people signed the petition. (Terra Daily, 18 June 2003; Greenpeace Magazine, 18 June 2003)