* Some 94 percent of local community opposed to nuclear
* Warsaw says will consider the decision
* Poland wants to develop nuclear to reduce coal reliance
(Adds PGE comment)
By Maciej Onoszko
MIELNO, Poland, Feb 13 Residents of
popular Baltic Sea resort Mielno, one of three sites shortlisted
to host Poland's first nuclear plant early in the next decade,
on Sunday voted overwhelmingly against the plan.
Some 94 percent of the 2,389 people who took part in the
referendum opposed the plant, and only 5 percent supported it,
Mielno Mayor Olga Roszak-Pezala told Reuters late on Sunday.
Turnout was 57 percent.
The village of Gaski in the Mielno municipality is one of
three sites selected by Polish power company PGE last
November to host a power station with a capacity of 3 gigawatts,
which is set to double in the 2030s.
The emergence of Gaski on the PGE shortlist caught local
authorities and citizens by surprise, with some 90 percent of
them earning their living from tourism, Roszak-Pezala said.
"People are very determined not to have the nuclear plant
here," she told Reuters.
On the day of the ballot, many buildings in Mielno were
placarded with 'vote no' posters. Some participants of a polar
bear plunge, an event taking place simultaneously in Mielno over
the weekend, also protested against nuclear power.
The European Union's largest eastern economy, Poland, wants
to introduce nuclear energy to reduce its heavy reliance on
Warsaw will take the results of the referendum into account
in its further work on the project, but believes the local
community was hastened into the decision, a deputy economy
minister, who oversees the nuclear project, said.
"The timing of the referendum held without prior debate and
discussion, without the possibility of delivering information on
benefits stemming from such an investment to the inhabitants of
Gaski, has strongly weakened the process," Hanna Trojanowska
said in a statement on Monday.
Poland's centrist government plans to launch a pro-nuclear
public campaign in March, she added.
PGE said the nuclear station would be bringing the local
authorities some 37 million zlotys ($11.7 million) in annual tax
revenues, while as many as 2,400 people could find employment
during the construction phase and a total of 50,000 workers
would benefit indirectly by providing services, among others.
Westinghouse, a U.S.-based unit of Japan's Toshiba,
France's Areva and the Japanese-American group GE
Hitachi are competing to supply technology for
the project, estimated to cost up to 21 billion euros ($27.7
Two other shortlisted sites, Choczewo and Zarnowiec, also
located in northern Poland on the sea, have not held
Formally, PGE could start the project without the consent of
the local community, but Mielno authorities said the ballot
result was a clear signal that PGE should seek a site elsewhere.
"A referendum is the highest form of social consultation,"
the head of Mielno's municipal council, Krzysztof Chadacz, told
Reuters. "If PGE does not back out, we will launch any
democratically available form of protest, including legal action
and appeal to the European Court of Justice."
($1 = 0.7582 euros)
($1 = 3.1756 Polish zlotys)
(Additional reporting by Agnieszka Barteczko, writing by
Gabriela Baczynska, editing by Jason Neely and Jane Baird)