Slovaks Look to Restart Nuclear Reactor Due to Shortage of Gas

ReutersA view of Slovakia's Soviet-era Jaslovske Bohunice nuclear power plant.
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia -- Slovakia delayed on Tuesday a decision on restarting a Soviet-era nuclear reactor amid gas shortages, a move that would put it on a collision course with the European Union.

Bratislava declared a state of emergency after the flow of Russian gas stopped last week, which had cut supplies to major industries and gas-powered electricity facilities.

The government said the Jaslovske Bohunice reactor, viewed by neighboring Austria as unsafe, had to be put into operation again to maintain power supplies.

But Prime Minister Robert Fico said Tuesday that Slovakia had secured backup generating capacity and possible imports to keep power running for now.


Hans Punz / AP
Protesters rallying against Bohunice at the Slovakian Embassy in Vienna.
"Some extraordinary measures were taken last night, which means we are able to maintain stability of the electricity system for several more days," Fico said at a news conference.

"But, at the same time, I have to say the possibility of restarting [the nuclear unit] is still very relevant," he said.

Slovakia reluctantly shut down a unit of the of the Jaslovske Bohunice power station at the end of last year, meeting an obligation it made ahead of its 2004 EU entry.

The European Commission warned Slovakia not to reopen the plant Tuesday, saying the move would prompt legal action from the EU's executive arm.

In Vienna, activists from the Austrian Green Party, Greenpeace and Global 2000 organization protested the Bohunice station reopening in front of the Slovakian Embassy on Tuesday.