Austria to go 100 percent nuclear-free
This month, 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. The EU is not pleased about the move, which has gone practically unnoticed in reports in English.
In a press release (in German) from July 4, the Austrian Parliament announced the adoption of a ban on nuclear power imports to the country. The policy decision was announced more than a year ago but has only now been made law.
Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner was quick to relativize the matter, however, arguing that Austria has merely implemented mandatory labels on all sources of electricity, including pumped storage, though he admits that, in practice, imports of nuclear power have effectively been banned. Basically, all Austrian power providers have pledged to refrain from purchasing nuclear power from abroad, and starting in 2015 all power will have to be labeled. According to a report at Der Spiegel (in German), imports of mixed origin – only some of which is nuclear – currently make up almost 14 percent of Austria's power supply.
Critics have charged that the labeling itself is impossible because individual electrons cannot be traced back to a source, as the Wall Street Journal argued a few years ago. Yet, at the time, Germany already had its power labeled, which seems to have escaped experts at the most prominent economic daily in the US. Power purchase agreements are signed between entities, so it is generally possible to know what your power mix is.
Austrian politicians are being especially careful in their formulations because the EU may challenge the policy as unfairly affecting foreign power providers. Austria does not have any nuclear plants itself, so essentially the country has now decided to ban a particular product made within the EU.
There has practically been no reporting on this issue in English, perhaps because the EU has yet to respond. Nonetheless, Der Spiegel quotes are European Commission spokesperson saying, "there must not be any limits on legally generated power within the EU." It seems that an open conflict with Austria is only a matter of time. The newsweekly also says it is unlikely that Germany will follow Austria's example. (Craig Morris)