Chvaletice, East Bohemia, Oct 3 (CTK) – Greenpeace activists climbed one of the cooling towers of the Chvaletice coal-fired power station this morning, occupying it in protest of the planned extension of the plant’s operation until 2030, Greenpeace spokesman Lukas Hrabek told CTK.

“They are ready to occupy the cooling tower for several days,” Hrabek said.

The activists unfolded a part of their banner on Monday and they plan to unfold the second part on Tuesday.

Two of the plant’s four boiler houses, built in 1979, are undergoing reconstruction after which the operation of the Chvaletice plant may be extended until 2030. Greenpeace said the plant should be closed down by 2020 at the latest, according to previous promises.

Chvaletice plant director general Lubos Pavlas said no promise that the plant would stop operating by 2020 has ever been made. The plant can operate once it meets all the required conditions, he said.

The plant’s owner, the Severni energeticka company, previously rejected the criticism from Greenpeace. It argued that emissions of pollutants and dust will decrease thanks to the reconstruction.

Ahead of the weekend regional elections, Greenpeace is calling on the general public and politicians to reject the reconstruction of the boilers. Greenpeace representatives argue that the Czech Republic does not need the electric power from Chvaletice because it has been exporting four times more power than Chvaletice produces.

Greenpeace challenged the fact that the building permit for the reconstruction of the boiler houses was issued without an analysis of the environmental impact (EIA).

Greenpeace energy campaign head Jan Rovensky criticised Pardubice Region’s Governor Martin Netolicky (Social Democrats, CSSD) and the clerks of the regional authorities for “absolute indifference and passivity” in dealing with the issue.

At a CSSD election meeting in the nearby town of Prelouc on Monday, Greenpeace activists called on Netolicky to express a clear position on the planned extension of the Chvaletice plant.

Netolicky rejected their request. “I don’t want to get into a situation that the regional office would be excluded from the decision-making process because it might face objections that it is biased,” he said.

Pavlas said the problem is that private property is not respected in the country, believing that such activists are not punished for trespassing.

The protest does not threaten the plant’s operation. Two units are out of operation due to the reconstruction and the remaining two units are as well due to a recent fire of a coal conveyor. The plant will resume its operation by end of October.

Chvaletice Mayor Blanka Zaklova said the locals do not protest against the power plant because many of them have jobs there. In addition, its operator makes investments in the plant to improve the environment.

Zaklova said the locals do not like the Greenpeace protest.

Environmental activists tried to explain their protest to hundreds of the plant’s employees outside the plant, but the workers booed, whistled and labelled their effort populist and political.