Zwentendorf is a nuclear power plant, which has been built in 1970s. After its completion in 1978 Austria held a referendum about it and the majority, by exactly 0,47%, voted against putting the nuclear power plant in operation. Since then Austria has a power plant on the scale of 1:1 that can be visited. The closest I ever came to a nuclear power plant was last year in Dungeness. But even then I was on the other side of the fence.
The advantage of having a nuclear power plant as a museum is that one can actually go inside and visit it. Of course you can’t just come by and walk around. To get your foot inside the door you need to book a guided tour (only in German). These are free of charge and happen every Friday. Bookings are always open for next three months. But you need to be quick about it, once the dates go online they always fill up quickly.
Hence we booked a private tour, otherwise we would never have managed to get in as a group. Unfortunately it was not free of charge, but at least we could choose date and time. The number of participants is limited to twenty five persons.
From up close it looked even bigger, which makes the fact that this power plant was never put to use even more interesting.
I am sure nowadays these nuclear power plant do look a bit different inside. But let’s not forget that Zwentendorf is like a time capsule. Time has stood still here since the 70’s. Because why modernize something which never operates?
We started the tour with a short introduction film that sounded more like a commercial for a nuclear power plant. In hindsight one always knows more. But it’s funny to hear so much about the safe use of nuclear energy after Chernobyl and Fukushima. We passed the washrooms and changing rooms. Not sure if these flimsy overalls would have helped in an emergency.
Personally I don’t remember any technical details from the tour. What I found most interesting though was that the power plant was ready to go. Basically they just needed to press a button and the thing would have gone live. Even the nuclear fuel rods had been on site, they just hadn’t been made ‘hot’. So … wow! The two tour guides really did their best to explain everything that we saw and how it should have been used.
Above is the hall with a huge concrete hole where the fuel rods would have gone in. The tank would have been filled with water. Taking the stairs to get all the way down we looked through a hatch to see what was underneath the concrete hole.
Getting into another hall with a huge blue tank and massive rotor blades from the turbine. No idea what that was for, but it certainly looks impressive. It was never made though into the energy of the future as stated on the banner.
Another floor down we looked up to a ceiling of valves and pipes. how I would imagine the underside of a space shuttle. But it was the underside of the concrete hole for the fuel rods, which we saw before.
Last but not least we reached the central communication room. This one has really not aged well with the many telephones and old screens. But it was fun to look at all the details.
Visiting Zwentendorf felt futuristic, but also like a step back in time. In any case it was totally informative even if I can’t remember much. As an excursion I can wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone. The tour was fascinating and each one of our group was attentive and asked questions. Really worth a visit! Yours, Pollybert