Southern Bohemian Mothers against Atomic Danger
Attn: Dana Kuchtova
37001 Ceske Budejovice
ph: +420-38-771 5178
Temelin and the people around it
The construction of the Temelin NPP has basically changed the life of the people in South Bohemia irreversably. The decision to build Temelin was made in the 80's deep in the time of socialism, which meant without consulting the public. Among the surrounding population there has not been much talk about it. It was always seen as a done thing. People were told, "We need electricity. Atomic power is the future and our big Soviet brothers will unselfishly give us their own know-how for building NPP's." The majority of the population had no access to information about NPPs although some of the more perceptive of them had realized there are dangers. Only a few of them were courageous enough to try and demand information and eventually protested against it during the socialist times.
In the first years after the revolution (1989) more people, including people from villages around the plant, actively tried to cooperate to stop the building of Temelin. The awakening after the revolution obviously brought them the feeling of freedom and free will to work together and to cooperate with groups from foreign countries, primarily Austria. However, the foreign groups were not always sensitive to the local situation and culture in the ways that they reached out to the people in the Czech Republic. For example: Greenpeace Austria printed simple minded leaflets with skull and cross bones below the slogan: all you are doing is bad and only we know what is good.
This is illustrative of some of the mistakes of ecological organisations as well as neo-communistic right governments in their approach towards educating about energy problems. They are causes of the contemporary attitude of the people in and around Temelin. It is necessary to stress that still, today, there is a division and a different out-look between people from the villages and cities in the area and "outsiders", which is outcome of both by tradition and "progress".
The Czech definition of a "village" includes cities like Ceske Budejovice (population (98.000 people). In Southern Bohemia small settlements used to be relatively numerous, but in the socialist time they were brought together and concentrated as "centres of the community". There wasn't much money left in the small villages and many of them ceased to exist.
The people in the countryside are also characteristically conservative and are not well informed. Their only source of information is TV and newspapers. "It was written in the newspaper" is often a synonym for, "It is true". In the countryside there are few cultural activities and very few opportunities for paying work. Most work is found in local agriculture co-operatives or by commuting to a bigger city. Because of their isolation there is a passivity and a slow ability to adopt to changes. Some of the positive things about these rural communities though, are their close relationship to nature and better friendships between neighbours.
The local people who live around Temelin NPP can be divided into a few groups.
The first group consists of those people who were very active in the first years of protest before the revolution and who tried to co-operate on stopping the building of Temelin. But after government's dissolution in the year 1993, many of these people saw their efforts to stop Temelin as hopeless and so started devoting their efforts to other activities connected with anti-nuclear protests, ecology and energy ( such as groups that measure radon, and study hydropower plants). Within this first group it is necessary recognise the determined people who, in the frame of ecological initiatives or individually, continued to work directly against nuclear activities. Most of these determined people however, are concentrated in the cities. The second group of people are the inhabitants around TemelIn who were not enthusiastic about the Temelin NPP. Within this group it is possible to identify 3 subgroups.
First there is a group of concerned citizens who signed all the petitions against Temelin, took part in some of the antinuclear demonstrations and are still willing to do something to express their opposition. In the period after the revolution this group was not in the foreground of the antinuclear debate as they were typically dedicated to their families and work. Now they have became depressed by government policies, general problems of existence in today‘s economic climate and by the perceived indifference of the government to their concerns and misgivings with respect to the Temelin NPP. This is a potentially large group from which it may well be possible to once again draw active support.
The second subgroup consist of people who are largely indifferent to the NPP construction, it is true that they would rather not have a NPP in their backyards but they are certainly not prepared to take part in any form of anti-nuclear campaign. They are perhaps not prepared to take responsibility for their own lives, hiding behind the excuse that the people in charge (politicians) will do what they want regardless of any objections that the local population might have. They also typically have the same low regard for green activists protesting against nuclear power as they do for the government‘s solutions. It may be that they enjoy being the professional victims of authority. In order to live a normal life in the vicinity of Temelin they have subconsciously blocked out any understanding of its danger. This is why they are reluctant to listen, read or speak about it. It is a form of psychological denial.
The other subgroup of locals consists of young people, mainly students, who are coming across the problems of nuclear power for the first time. They are open to discussion on this issue and some of them will certainly take part in anti-nuclear activities.
The third group is made up of people profiting from the construction of the NPP. For most of them it is the only opportunity for work in the locality and as commuting to Ceske Budejovice is becoming ever more expensive and time consuming this makes it even more attractive. These people are thinking only of the short-term and have not woken up to the fact that when the construction will be completed they will lose their jobs. Perhaps they hope that they will be able to find some other work in Temelin or that the government will look after them. At the moment they will be happy if the construction goes on for a long time. They are counting on getting some advantages from it, such as cheaper electricity or financial compensation for living in the neighbourhood of the NPP. These people are generally very unfriendly toward activists because they see in them the possibility of losing their current security. All of the people around Temelin are getting tired of the growing mountain of information on the subject. Before 1989 information was very hard to come by and we have not yet gotten accustomed to using the current flood of information to make valued decisions. Our policy has always been to trust only in our beliefs, and this still holds good today.
People do not like change and are most comfortable when they live within a framework of routine, e. g. wages at the end of each month, Dallas on TV, dinner on the table at six each night...
We have to address our arguments to each group differently. In doing this we should emphasise financial considerations, the damaging effect of radiation on the health of local inhabitants (e. g. leukemia clusters near nuclear power stations) and also the possibility of another Chernobyl. It is also necessary to stress that nuclear power is not the only option. We must therefore educate people as to the benefits of alternative energy sources in environmental as well as energy efficiency measures.
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