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Austria's 1970s-Era “Ghost” Plant That Never Opened, Now A Global Symbol Of Nuclear Resistance

Long before Fukushima, or even Chernobyl, Austrians pulled the plug on nuclear power with a 1978 referendum. The physical legacy of that narrow vote is a completed - but never used - power plant called Zwentendorf, now open to the public.

E.ON has already unplugged several of its nuclear facilities
Austria's abandoned Zwentendorf nuclear power plant
Joëlle Stolz

ZWENTENDORF, Austria – Finding the Zwentendorf is no easy task. Located south of the Danube, about an hour's drive from Vienna, the abandoned nuclear power plant is tucked away in a rural landscape that looks almost fake. Cold and concrete, the building is a mausoleum of sorts, a monument to Austria's thwarted nuclear ambitions, which died on the vine thanks to a 1978 referendum.

Nowadays this same area of lower Austria features an almost complete range of energy alternatives -- projects that presumably would not have been needed had the Zwentendorf been allowed to operate. There is a hydroelectric plant, a bio-ethanol station operated by the multinational sugar company Agrana, and plenty of solar panels. There is also a waste incinerator built opposite the abandoned nuclear plant.

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Mariateresa Fichele

Fifteen years ago, Francesco kept busy by scamming people. He was a regular visitor to the beaches of Terracina, south of Rome, where he was caught several times selling counterfeit Ray-Ban sunglasses. Then came the drugs, which fed a serious substance-induced psychosis and eventually he tested positive for HIV.

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