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  • Just over 50 years ago,

  • the Austrian government decided to build

  • three nuclear reactors along the Danube River.

  • It was the age of the atom, the height of the space race.

  • Nuclear power seemed like the natural next step for Austria.

  • But politically, it was risky,

  • and the decision was extremely controversial.

  • It took many years of arguments and protests.

  • But eventually, the country held a referendum.

  • The government asked the people of Austria:

  • "do you want nuclear power?"

  • And the vote was on a knife-edge.

  • When everything was counted, 50.5% said...

  • "No".

  • The trouble was, they'd already built the first reactor,

  • they just hadn't turned it on yet.

  • - This nuclear power plant was built up from 1972 to 1976.

  • Everything was here.

  • The power plant was ready for operation, including the fuel rods.

  • They only have to push the red button to put it into operation.

  • And then, the chancellor of Austria decided to hold a public referendum.

  • We like to say this special nuclear power plant

  • never splits any atoms,

  • but people, families and political parties.

  • The capacity of the nuclear power plant in Zwentendorf

  • was 750 megawatts.

  • This reactor should have produced electricity

  • for 1.8 million households.

  • - So what do you do with a never-used nuclear power plant?

  • It's not like you can just flat-pack it and ship it over the border

  • to somewhere that does want it.

  • And this was incredibly expensive.

  • Adjusting for inflation, in today's money, this plant cost over a billion euro.

  • - When the result of the public referendum

  • was mentioned on the national TV stations,

  • for 200 people here in Zwentendorf it was a shock.

  • Nobody estimated this result.

  • The owners, they decided to conservate the reactor

  • because they thought that politicians will change their mind

  • and they are able to put the reactor into operation

  • in one, or two, or three years.

  • But that never happened.

  • So in 1985, they started to sell parts of the equipment.

  • But this selling process was not very successful,

  • and today we have 99% of the equipment still here.

  • EVN bought the nuclear power plant in 2005.

  • We don't have plans now to use it.

  • But if there's some day the need for a gas-fired power plant

  • or an alternative-fired power plant, for example with biomass,

  • it's a perfect location.

  • In the meantime, it's a training centre for nuclear engineers

  • for training how you can rebuild a reactor.

  • We offer it as a filming location.

  • We use it for music festivals, 15,000 people outside and inside.

  • We installed, in 2009, a solar power plant.

  • And since 2010, we offer guided tours.

  • It's open to the public. You can book your reservation,

  • but normally we are full for six months within some minutes.

  • EVN bought not only a technical building,

  • we bought also a very specific piece of Austria's contemporary history.

  • Here, everything is like it was more than 40 years ago.

  • I love the special atmosphere you have here,

  • and I'm really glad to present it to other people.

  • - After the referendum, Austria went on

  • to entirely ban nuclear power within its borders,

  • maybe because the residents had concerns about accidents,

  • or maybe because they didn't want to deal with the waste and long-term planning,

  • or maybe, if you believe conspiracy theories,

  • because some of the people who ran energy companies back then

  • were worried about prices dropping

  • and threw a load of money at a scare campaign.

  • The story changes a lot depending on who's telling it.

  • And it is the politically easy option to phase out nuclear power.

  • Particularly now as wind and solar continue to become more and more viable,

  • a lot of countries are phasing out nuclear.

  • I shouldn't be able to stand here.

  • This reactor should've run for about 35 years,

  • and now it'll be almost finished being decommissioned.

  • There'd be hardly anything left.

  • Instead, we got a training centre, a filming location,

  • and, yeah, a very expensive occasional tourist attraction.

  • But perhaps most importantly, we got a museum.

  • Because this reactor doesn't have to be decommissioned.

  • It's the only one on the planet

  • where this 1970s dream of the atomic age can be preserved,

  • if only by accident.

  • Many, many thanks to Stefan Zach and all the team at EVN

  • who gave us so much access to this incredible place.

  • You can find out more about them at the link in the description.

Just over 50 years ago,

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Inside The Billion-Euro Nuclear Reactor That Was Never Switched On

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/04/01
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