Nuclear-Free Future

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10 April 2011

Heinz Stockinger

His features signal stubbornness – at least where saving the environment is concerned. His voice is that of a diplomat, and with his keen eye he meticulously checks any and all documents that cross his desk. Moreover, people attest to his modesty. Not a bad mix for an anti-nuclear activist.

Heinz Stockinger was born in 1947. He studied English and French, graduating with an M.A. from Salzburg University, the school where he teaches today. He says about himself: “In 1968 I was too young to join the student protesters, but I have been guided by their spirit of resistance against ossified power structures, dogmatic ideologies, formal authority and blatant materialism. For me, progress deserves the name only when it advances man’s humanity and respect for creation.”

His beginnings as an anti-nuclear activist date back to 1977, when he joined the movement against Zwentendorf, the proposed Austrian nuclear power plant that the Kreisky government was pushing for. In June, 1978, those plans were stopped in a closely contested nationwide referendum that made Austria nuclear-free.

Heinz Stockinger’s activist career continued, focusing in the mid-1980s on a proposed nuclear reprocessing plant in neighboring Bavaria. Wackersdorf became the rallying cry for cross-border mobilization, and in 1989 the nuclear industry and the conservative Bavarian government had to concede defeat.

“For me, progress deserves the name only when it advances man’s humanity and respect for creation.”

By now, Heinz Stockinger was a recognized leader of the anti-nuclear movement, and he has been the driving force behind Salzburg-based PLAGE (Plattform gegen Atomgefahren / Platform Against Nuclear Dangers) ever since.

An untiring campaigner and whistleblower, Heinz Stockinger alerted his fellow Austrians to the European Union’s EURATOM treaty, which obliges the nuclear-free country to subsidize the nuclear industry. He called for a boycott of Siemens, the German electronics giant which always manages to keeps a foot in the door of the nuclear industry and doesn’t hesitate to switch allegiance from French Areva to Russian Rosatom in order to stay in the nuclear power plant construction business.

Temelin, the Czech nuclear power plant, is a major concern for Austrian activists. Stockinger was there when they blocked the Czech border; he did fundraising for an attempt to use the US Freedom of Information Act to get documents released concerning the alleged Temelin deals between the US and Czech governments, Westinghouse, the Prague-based energy provider CEZ and Ex-Im, the Export-Import Bank of the United States; and he assisted US attorney Ed Fagan to prepare to sue for damages.

Stockinger, recipient of several environmentalist awards, initiated, among other projects, an aluminum recycling system. But the father of two sons, the academic – at Salzburg he teaches French Studies – never loses sight of his overriding goal: a nuclear-free future.

– Claus Biegert
English translation: Craig Reishus