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Slovakian report Slovakian report
by Euro Reporter
2012-10-29 08:30:55
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Nuclear power plants must ramp up power supply

Stress tests at Slovakia’s two nuclear power stations revealed that the facilities need to improve the safety of auxiliary electricity supply, the country’s nuclear security chief said. Plants in Jaslovske Bohunice and Mochovce, controlled by Enel SpA (ENEL), were forced to review and improve the diesel generators that ensure the supply of power to the power stations, especially the circuits operating the nuclear reactors, Marta Ziakova, the chairwoman of the Slovak Nuclear Safety Office, said in an interview in Valec, Czech Republic yesterday. The Mochovce plant, which currently operates two Soviet- designed water-pressure reactors VVER and is building two more, had to increase the capacity of its diesel generators to be able to supply all four units with electricity at the same time, she said. Her office also asked the Jaslovske Bohunice plant to carry out a seismic safety review.

“We asked the Bohunice management to review the plant’s resistance to seismic activities, especially the resistance of the diesel generators,” Ziakova said. The reviews were part of Europe-wide nuclear stress tests carried out after the reactor disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Dai- Ichi plant in March last year. The accident occurred when a tsunami knocked out power supply to Fukushima reactors, disrupting the cooling process that led to reactor meltdown, causing mass evacuations and leading to long-term environmental damage. The post-Fukushima stress tests have delayed the completion of units 3 and 4 at Mochovce to 2014-15. So far there is no indication of further delays, Ziakova said.

The older Jaslovske Bohunice reactors received a 10-year life extension in 2008. Slovenske Elektrarne AS, the Slovak utility controlled by Enel, invested about 500 million euros ($645 million) into modernization and improving output. Slovenske can apply for further lifespan extension by 2014, she said.

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Slovakia accused of licensing dangerous replacement joints made in Asia

The Slovak media have reported an undercover investigation in Slovakia by Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper which reported that Slovakia's poor monitoring mechanism allowed low-quality health aids to be imported via Slovakia into Europe. The reporters set up a fictitious Chinese firm, produced a brochure about an artificial lumbar joint and tried to get a licence for their product in several European countries including Slovakia, the Sme daily wrote, citing the British newspaper. They asked a private institute in Nová Dubnica to check one of the lumbar joints, which was faulty. The certification firm did not note any faults and promised the reporters that it would obtain a certificate. The director of the institute has since rejected the reports and told Sme that the reporters manipulated the evidence. The Slovak Health Ministry said that the case comes under the jurisdiction of the Economy Ministry, which in turn has said that a subordinate office, dealing with metrology, should deal with the issue. That office is standing by the institute, arguing that its response consisted of only “consultations” that are not binding. Despite this, the police’s Office for the Fight Against Corruption will investigate the case.

British Health Secretary [i.e. minister] Jeremy Hunt has pledged to stop a “worrying and completely unacceptable weakness in the regulatory system”, exposed by The Daily Telegraph, which allows potentially dangerous artificial hips to be implanted in British patients. It can be disclosed that medical regulators are also secretly advising some Chinese and Indian firms to market artificial hips and other devices as “Made in Europe” to unsuspecting British patients. Their health is being put at risk because some European regulators, known as notified bodies, are prepared to license potentially dangerous medical implants. Official regulatory bodies in Slovakia and the Czech Republic were prepared to approve a “toxic” hip replacement, which means it could be sold to the due British authority and legally used in unsuspecting British patients, the investigation found. The hip – designed by medical experts for the investigation – had similar specifications to another banned product which is suspected of poisoning patients and leaving them in severe pain.

The British health secretary said there were “problems in the European regulatory system” which needed to be addressed and that patient safety could be “compromised”. British MPs and senior doctors criticised the European regulatory system, which involves more than 70 private regulators competing for business, meaning the process is susceptible to corrupt practices, with those policing the safety of medical products apparently also advising Asian firms on entering the European market. Representatives of several notified bodies said Asian and Indian companies were able to mark their products as “Made in Europe” because of a loophole known as “Own Brand Labelling”. At EVPU, a notified body in Slovakia, representatives said this form of re-labelling was “standard procedure”. The representative said: “We have lots of customers from the UK which buy the product from an Indian manufacturer and put on their own label.”

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Comparing the income of Roma and non-Roma neighbors

According to the World Bank's Policy Advice on the Integration of Roma in the Slovak Republic [en, .pdf], published in July 2012, “there are about 320,000 people or 72,000 [Roma] families [in Slovakia] and the population is estimated to grow at about 1.8% per year, which means about 1,200 new Roma families are formed each year.” This large and fast-growing community is marginalized, however, and its situation is critical, in many cases comparable to that in the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia: only 20% of working age Roma men and 9% of Roma women have jobs, compared with 65% of working age men and 52% of working age women in the general Slovak population. These rates are low also for regional standards: they are less than half those found in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and Romania. Moreover, wage levels among the Roma who do have jobs are on average half of those earned by the general population. […]

[…] Dire employment conditions among marginalized Roma in Slovakia translate into unusually large gaps in per capita GDP between Roma and the general population. Among the general Slovak population, average per capita GDP is approximately Euro 13,000 per year, placing Slovakia among the richest 25% of countries in the world. At the same time, the average per capita output of Slovak Roma is only Euro 1,400 per year. After accounting for purchasing power, GDP levels found among Slovak Roma are, once again, equivalent to levels observed in countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia belonging to the poorest 25% worldwide. Another way of seeing this gap is that monthly per capita output among the general Slovak population is similar in magnitude to the annual per capita output among Slovak Roma. […]

The World Bank's recommendations look very simple. To put it shortly, improve the situation, and it will get better for everyone: […] Roma integration is indeed in the national economic interest of Slovakia. Slovak GDP would be Euro 3.1 billion higher if Roma would have the same employment opportunities and wage levels as non-Roma. […]
 
 

      
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