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Czech, Austria Mull Nuclear Plant

November 29, 2001

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) _ The Czech government agreed Thursday to tighten safety at the Temelin nuclear plant, defusing a dispute with Austria that threatened Czech prospects for an early entry into the European Union.

The EU mediated the deal reached by Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel and Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman.

It would end a long-running dispute between the central European neighbors over the Russian-designed power plant which is just 30 miles from the northern border of nuclear-free Austria.

``In the past, this has complicated relations between Austria and the Czech Republic. Now the skies have cleared,″ Zeman told reporters.

Under the deal, the Czech’s safety commitments will be written into the republic’s EU treaty of accession, expected in 2004.

In return, Austria agreed not to block negotiations on its neighbor’s entry into the 15-nation Union.

Austria demanded the shutdown of the power plant which is due to become fully operational in 2003 after almost 20 years of construction and testing.

``The EU set out a sensible way forward. This is a fine example of good neighborliness,″ Schuessel said after the talks.

Based on Soviet design but updated with U.S. technology, the 2,000-megawatt plant has been plagued by technical problems since construction work began in 1986.

Testing of Temelin’s reactors resumed Wednesday after a leaking circulation pump caused the latest, month-long, shutdown.

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