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35 Years Ago, on November 5, 1978, Austrians voted against putting an already built nuclear power plant online. In November 2012 the plant became a solar power plant. In July 2013 Austria voted to ban imported nuclear power.
Old Town Salzburg across the Salzach river Salzburg Austria, photo by Jiuguang Wang via Wikimedia

We would update the famous saying about Habsburg Austria’s foreign policy of intermarriage to prevent war:  “BELLA GERANT ALII, TU FELIX AUSTRIA NUBE” (Let Others Wage War; You, Happy Austria, Marry) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Latin_phrases_(B) to 

These two are perhaps more related than we might realize in that Austria’s 1955 neutrality may have helped facilitate its successful blocking of nuclear energy:  “A 1951 study undertaken by the [US] AEC concluded that commercial nuclear reactors would not be economically feasible if they were used solely to produce electricity; they would be, however, if they also produced plutonium which could be sold.  Utilities themselves were only mildly intrigued with the notion of being able to produce ‘too cheap to meter electricity,’ and only so long as someone else took over the responsibility for the waste products, and indemnified them against catastrophic nuclear plant accidents.” (bold added for emphasis) http://www.neis.org/literature/Brochures/weapcon.htm Were citizens from more militaristic countries, involved in the Cold War, allowed a referendum to vote for or against nuclear power?    

Maria Ponsee - Kirche2 Maria Ponsee Church in Zwentendorf on the Danube (River), Austria. Photo by Bwag via Wikimedia

The Safest Nuclear Power Plant in the World – Today a Solar Power Plant!
AKW Zwentendorf
Zwentendorf (on the Danube) Nuclear Power Plant by Thomas Macht via Wikimedia. In a referendum on November 5, 1978, 50.47% voted against putting the Zwentendorf nuclear plant into operation. Through the years it has been used as a movie set and for safety training. In November 2012 it became a solar power plant! The ORF article below further notes that that part of Austria (Lower Austria) will be using all renewable energy by 2015. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zwentendorf http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zwentendorf_Nuclear_Power_Plant http://noe.orf.at/news/stories/2559355/

Austria’s No to Nuclear Power

Dr. Peter Weish presented a paper “Austria’s No To Nuclear Power” in Japan in 1988 outlining how and why Austria rejected nuclear power even after its nuclear power plant had been built. From his paper:
In the late 60s the Austrian government decided to start a nuclear energy program.  A planning company for nuclear power plants was established. 

At the time I was working in a small biological research department at the Institute for Radiation Protection in the Austrian Reactor Center near Vienna.  Since I knew about many unsolved problems in connection with radioactive waste and the biological hazards of ionizing radiation, I spoke out openly against the project of a nuclear power reactor.  I became part of the tiny antinuclear ‘movement’ from its beginnings.  I remember our first rally in 1971, to the construction site in Zwentendorf.  There were about one dozen participants.
In autumn 1976 the government launched an information campaign about nuclear power with a view to justifying and palliating the nuclear program. The outcome however, was just the contrary. For the first time some newspapers featured articles critical of nuclear power, and the antinuclear movement was enormously stimulated. It turned out that, contrary to previous concepts, Austria could not ‘solve’ its nuclear waste problem by export to other countries.  The issue of nuclear waste storage stimulated massive local opposition in the regions proposed for that purpose. Newspapers began to cover the nuclear issue extensively.  For the first time it was possible to publicly question in earnest the starting up of the almost completed plant in Zwentendorf without being branded as an utter idiot. 

There were many reasons for protesting against nuclear power. Perhaps the most important were: 

* The hazards to human health connected with the release of radioactivity. 

* A number of unresolved technical problems of the reactor. 

* The unsettled and unsolvable problems of nuclear waste management and disposal

* The connections between the so called peaceful nuclear energy and the military nuclear industry. We were aware of the fact that our opposition against the expansion of the nuclear industry (and plutonium production) in our country was also a contribution to the fight against the horizontal proliferation of nuclear weapons. 

* Inadequate emergency planning, the necessity for and impossibility of evacuating several cities in case of a nuclear catastrophe. 
[His conclusions]
• It is worthwhile fighting against strong opponents, even if there appears to be no chance of success. 
• Nothing is without effect. 
The few thousand votes that decided the referendum against nuclear power were a clear enough proof that every activist and every action had been indispensable. 
• Perhaps the most important insight is that powerful organisations such as electricity companies, big political parties and trade unions are the last to learn the lesson. Changes must be forced upon them by the public which is by no means an easy task
• In the long run personal communication, though slow and laborious, is effective. There is no alternative to information and motivation of the public, if we want our hope for a non-nuclear future in a liveable world to become reality. 

Personal communication is a process that increases exponentially.  At the beginning it is hard to observe any effect, but when critical awareness builds up in the population, there may be a sudden change of mind. Small countries have an advantage insofar as this process is less time-consuming in a smaller society than in a larger one. 
… (Bold added by us) Read the complete paper here: http://homepage.univie.ac.at/peter.weish/schriften/austrias_no_to_nuclear_power.pdf 

What is especially interesting in the paper is that the more the Austrians learned about nuclear power, the less they liked it.  Of particular importance is that they learned early on that “contrary to previous concepts, Austria could not ‘solve’ its nuclear waste problem by export to other countries.  The issue of nuclear waste storage stimulated massive local opposition in the regions proposed for that purpose.” It is also interesting that he mentions the problem of the potential need for evacuation, which other countries do not seem to think about.

Vorderhopfreben Üntschenspitze 1
Vorderhopfreben Üntschenspitze, Austria. Image by Friedrich Böhringer via Wikimedia

This is what many people fail to understand 35 years later in most places. There is no solution for the waste.  There might be a solution if countries were willing to invest intensively in research into solving the waste dilemma.  But they appear not to be.  Most countries and even many people seem to lack the foresight of Austria that if there is no solution for the waste you cannot use nuclear power plants.  One can but suspect that the traditionally imperialist powers, their offshoots, and some others, have in the back of their minds the possibility of illegally dumping the wastes in poorer countries, such as their former colonies.  Others, like the Italian mafia Camorra, appear to not mind dumping radioactive or hazardous wastes illegally in their own regions.  

Austria Becomes Nuclear Energy Free; A Model for Europe; A Beacon of Hope for the World

Austria is a nuclear free zone, when a nuclear power station was built during the 1970s at Zwentendorf, Austria, start-up was prevented by a popular vote in 1978. The completed power plant is now marketed as a shooting location for film and television.[2] On July 9, 1997, the Austrian Parliament voted unanimously to maintain the country’s anti-nuclear policy.[3]  Ironically, the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency is located in Vienna, and the IAEA maintains nuclear laboratories both in Vienna and Seibersdorf.[4] The IAEA has also established programs to assist nuclear energy projects in developing countries. Austria’s anti-nuclear stance also causes tension with its nuclear neighbors. Vienna is located close to the Czech reactor at Temelin, and four reactors are being built in neighboring Slovakia and two in neighboring Hungary.[5] Austria also draws from regional electricity grids, meaning it imports nuclear power, although chancellor Werner Faymann has pledged to eliminate Austria’s reliance on foreign power by 2015.[6]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear-free_zone (references at link) As we noted above, the nuclear power plant is now a solar power plant. Familiarity with nuclear from the IAEA labs is probably one reason that Austrians understood the dangers of nuclear everything early on.

Austria to go 100 percent nuclear-free

In July 2013, “Austria went ahead with its plans to ban imports of nuclear power to the country. Electricity is to be labeled to ensure that no power from nuclear reactors is purchased from abroad…” Article here: http://www.renewablesinternational.net/austria-to-go-100-percent-nuclear-free/150/537/71512/

Parliament Building in Vienna Austria. Photo by Jean Fonseca via Wikimedia

As Austria has positioned itself for decades with a clear majority against nuclear energy, the logical next step is to ban the import of nuclear power into the country.  After the Austrian National Council voted on the 3rd of July 2013, a corresponding amendment to the Electricity Industry and Organisation Act (Electricity Act) and the Energy Control Act was approved by the second chamber of parliament, the Bundesrat, banning the importation of nuclear power:  No Austrian energy group will be allowed to buy electricity in the future from the operator of a nuclear power plant or from unknown sources.  For every kilowatt-hour there must be a certificate stating that the energy is of non-nuclear origin. http://www.klimaretter.info/politik/hintergrund/14127-oesterreich-will-atomstrom-verbannen

The next step is to get EU countries to follow Austria’s lead.  A new Austrian anti-nuclear alliance between government, political parties, business and environmental organizations must now ensure that other EU countries follow suit, according to Alexander Egit, executive director of Greenpeace. http://www.greenpeace.org/austria/de/themen/atom/was-wir-tun/Raus-aus-Atomstrom/

The Act to amend the Electricity Act (Electricity Industry and Organisation Act) provides that every kilowatt hour of electricity being imported to Austria, be provided with a Certificate of Origin.  Not only can Austrians purchase electricity from non-nuclear sources, they can also be sure that for goods produced in Austria no nuclear power is used. http://www.greenpeace.org/austria/de/themen/atom/was-wir-tun/Raus-aus-Atomstrom/

Starting January 1, 2015 there is a legal obligation to complete current labeling. To supply customers with electricity of unknown origin (gray electricity) is prohibited.  In 2011 Austria imported around seven per cent nuclear produced electricity – roughly equivalent to the average production volume of two nuclear reactors. Starting in 2012 three energy companies could prove that they were nuclear-free. As a result, the share of nuclear power in Austria had dropped to 4 percent – only Verbund and Kelag were still in the business of selling nuclear energy. http://www.greenpeace.org/austria/de/themen/atom/was-wir-tun/Raus-aus-Atomstrom/

Nuclear Free Europe (video). Along with EU citizens, there is a speaker from Russia. A Lithuanian says that 65% of the Lithuanian population are against nuclear energy but that the government intends to build a nuclear reactor anyway.

Video in German about a July 2013 petition to make nuclear power companies liable.  It is worth watching to get an idea of how to make a simple, nice, and effective video.  It is from the following link: http://www.atomkraftfrei-leben.at/

Linked to the above link is this EU link about liability for nuclear accidents, that is, Who Pays? in the event of an accident. At the link a country by country breakdown is given. http://ec.europa.eu/energy/nuclear/consultations/20130718_powerplants_en.htm