MOCHOVCE officials want activists to "be made responsible" for spreading alarm.
Greenpeace Slovakia said on May 15 that about 10 workers in the plant, in western Slovakia, were exposed to radiation. The group said the safety of the employees and the general public was put at risk on April 25 purely because the plant wanted to finish its regular overhaul of the reactor by a given time.
Greenpeace says that it has reliable information from a source inside the Mochovce plant that safety was put at risk during the overhaul, which resulted in a temporary halting of the operation of the first reactor due to rising pressure during tests on the unit.
It is not known why the pressure increased, but it is believed that there could be two reasons for it - either defective seals on the unit or evaporating water. Either way, the nuclear supervisory authority and representatives from Mochovce say that the incident was a minor one, and that all safety requirements were fulfilled during the overhaul.
They said that the seals were replaced, and that no one was exposed to radiation, nor put at risk in any way.
"Any radiation leak is out of question," said UJD chief inspector Augustín Šimončič.
"All safety requirements were fulfilled in the operation," he added.
To assuage any public concern caused by the Greenpeace claims, the head of Slovak power company Slovenské elektrárne (SE), which runs Mochovce, has asked a special commission of independent experts to investigate the incident and to identify the cause of the problem.
The inspection is expected to confirm or reject that all safety requirements were met during the operation. The commission includes experts from institutions such as the Research Institute of Nuclear Energy and Slovak Technical University in Bratislava.
SE spokeswoman Jana Kaplanová told The Slovak Spectator that it was in the interests of her company to publish the results of the investigation as soon as they are known, and repeated that "no catastrophe, no [leak of] radiation" took place in the plant.
Greenpeace, on the other hand, insisted that it trusted its source from inside the plant. However, Ľubica Trubíniová, head of Greenpeace also said that her organisation welcomed the SE initiative to have the incident investigated by an independent commission.
"We believe that even the smallest incident in a nuclear plant deserves attention," Trubíniová told The Slovak Spectator on May 20.
"We expect the commission to confirm our information, and we hope that, unlike what is often the case in the nuclear sector, the investigation will be pursued to the end and the results will be published as promised," she said.
But Rastislav Petrech, spokesman for the Mochovce plant, said that his firm had taken all necessary precautions to prevent any risks to employees and the public, and was convinced that the commission would confirm that statement.
He said that Greenpeace was exaggerating, and added that groups spreading similar alarm messages should be responsible for the panic they cause with their claims.
"I think organisations such as Greenpeace definitely do have a place in society, but sometimes I wish they would be made responsible for spreading these messages.
"In our plant, safety is the company creed. We do all that is in our powers to keep our workers and the public safe," Petrech said.
SE's Kaplanová was unable to say when the results of the commission's investigation might be delivered.
26. May 2003 at 0:00 | Martina Pisárová