Life Without Nuclear Energy – Success Stories: Austria

Life Without Nuclear Energy – Success Stories: Austria

Austria is located in Central Europe. It is smaller than Hungary and the population is less. This article argues the non-necessity of nuclear energy. Is it possible to switch to renewable energy? Yes, it is. With responsible energy policy and responsible leaders. Again, let me refer back to Gender Equality, where Trudeau’s Cabinet was analyzed and why his ministers are real idols. I have to mention Austria as a successful country, both in terms of gender equality and clean energy. Striving for gender equality is also represented in their national anthem, as it says “Heimat großer Töchter und Söhne”, which translates to “Home to great daughters and sons”. Moreover, its lyrics have been written by a woman, called Paula von Predarović.

Turning back to clean energy, Austria was the powerhouse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Hungary was developing itself to be an agricultural power with its fertile soil. Therefore, only the food industry could develop in my country. Following the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1919, Austria slid to the right in terms of politics. The government of Austria was highly pro-Nazi between the two world wars. Before World War II, Austria was annexed by the Nazis (Anschluss). Then Soviets came in and Austria was forced to join the Soviet sphere. After ten years of a provisional government, the Austrian State Treaty was ratified (1955), which forbade Anschluss and Austria remained neutral. Therefore the Red Army left. This meant the country could return to their way, as they always did. Beginning in the 1960s, it turned out that they had become reliant on the Danube, and the government started to sympathize with nuclear energy. The government planned three reactors in the 1970s, the site was near Zwentendorf, Lower Austria, a bit northeast of Vienna. The ground was developed in 1972 and Siemens was responsible for the construction. The first uranium rods were placed in 1978, which meant the nuclear power plant was ready to be operated. However, demonstrations against the use of nuclear energy started in the surrounding villages (especially in Tulln). Nobody wanted to store fuel elements nearby. This dispute would have forced the government to store them abroad, which would have been very costly. Moreover, it would have endangered their energy sovereignty. Therefore the chancellor decided to have a referendum on whether Austria wanted nuclear power. With a small majority, people voted against nuclear power! Soon after this, the parliament passed a constitutional amendment that forbade the construction or operation of nuclear power plants. Everyone thought that the chancellor would fall after this referendum, but he remained in power. The nuclear plant was dismantled and the reactors were transported to German plants, which are scheduled to be shut down soon, too.

Which nuclear power plant is the safest? The one which is never brought into operation!

Austria made a decision. They do not want nuclear power. This meant the government turned towards renewable energy. In 2005, solar plants were installed on the structure in question, backed by Vienna University of Technology. The energy generated was fed into the Austrian electricity grid in 2009. The university founded a research centre for photovoltaics at the site. This is a very important milestone for Austria and their journey towards sustainability. The Austrian mentality has always been: “do it our way, and stay away from conflicts”. Leaders are real idols who serve as an example to the people. Where did this “do it our way” mentality lead? Austria produced as much electricity as providers started to pay customers for the use of their privately-generated electricity. In other words, the country is free from dependency on other countries thanks to the electricity surplus they have. This means they will have enough power for the decades to come. They invest a lot in renewable energy. They have run out of their coal supplies, but the thermal power station (which was built instead of the nuclear plant) made a new step towards clean energy: recycling waste heat. This meant electricity became more and more affordable in Austria. They do not need nuclear energy to be successful. However, globally speaking, nuclear power is still needed as renewable energy is not at the same level of being as efficient. In the next few decades, renewable energy will gain more prestige and people should be educated on the use of clean energy. Governments should sponsor installing solar cells on buildings and private houses. They should also cut the price of energy-efficient electric appliances. Without these measures, energy will never be affordable.

Let’s turn to wind power, which is also crucial for Austria. They started to build wind farms in the 1990s. The first farm was placed into operation in Zurndorf in 1997. Later on, six plants were added to the park. The plant output quickly tripled within a year. Until 2018, the installed capacity of wind farms exceeded 3,000 megawatts. A wind park with only 6 megawatts can save the earth from at least ten million tons of carbon dioxide every year. The Austrian government has always been an example of being ambitious. According to Nikolaus Berlakovich (who was Minister of the Environment), by 2020, Austria will generate 34% of its energy from renewable sources, and by 2050, this will reach to 100%. Therefore, they will become self-sufficient in clean and affordable energy. This is where Austria should serve as a model for us to be environmentally-conscious.

– Gergely Lázár

The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of #WAYSWF.

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