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Zwentendorf

Atomic Power Station in Zwentendorf
Demonstration against its being put into operation on June 12, 1977
© Votava, Vienna

The atomic power station in Zwentendorf, about 40 km. west of Vienna, is today, as it were, a monument to a caesura in the history of democracy in Austria. At the end of the 1970s, a movement developed combining citizens' action with the ecology movement and calling into question the previously undisputed symbols of modern society such as motorways and large construction projects. It gave new definition to the quality of life. In the debate on the construction project "nuclear power", criticism focused for the first time on the technocratic concept of progress.

The opponents of nuclear power banded together in IÖAG (Action Group of the Opponents of Austrian Nuclear Power Stations) and constituted a significant area of experimentation for forms of grass-roots democratic participation. Chancellor Bruno Kreisky threw the whole weight of his office into the effort to get the power station into operation, a position that he only revised after the reactor accident in Chernobyl, 1986. In the face of the broad protest movement, which at the climax of its activities involved an estimated 500,000 people, and after a plebiscite, he went over to the position of the opponents and carried it through in the government.

On November 5, 1978, a bare majority of Austrians (50.47%) decided against atomic energy, a success that gave impetus to new social movements in Austria and led in the 1980s to the founding of alternative green parties. The atomic energy debates from the middle of the 1970s could be seen as a sign that at least some segments of society had begun to question whether the established parties were really credible any more as representatives of group interests and as sponsors of political planning and decision-making, suggests the political scientist, Herbert Gottweis.

Source: www.aai.at

("Zwentendorf und die Folgen" [Zwentendorf and the Consequences] in Wendepunkten und Kontinuitäten [Turning Points and Continuities], 1998, pp. 165-166) Across Europe there is less consensus than ever about the use of nuclear energy. Of the 25 EU- member states, eleven (Austria, Portugal, Ireland, Denmark, Cyprus, Greece, Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Luxembourg, Malta) have never used nuclear energy. Italy opted out of its nuclear policy in 1990. Five other countries (Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Spain) have in recent years declared their intention of abandoning nuclear energy. In Finland, France, Great Britain, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Hungary, nuclear energy is still used, and some individual states, such as France, hold very firmly to their nuclear policy. Rising oil-prices in 2005 have however influenced discussion in those states who had contemplated abandoning nuclear energy (e.g. Germany) to the extent that the move has been deferred, at least for the time being.

Station: Zwentendorf
(Last update: 02/2006)

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