Zwentendorf is probably the best place in Europe in which to study a nuclear power station, although no electric power was ever generated there. It was built as the first of three projected nuclear power stations in Austria. It was completed, but was never put into operation after a referendum of 4 April 1978 rejected the use of nuclear power in Austria. Construction, which involved several Austrian companies, began in 1972 but after two weeks the foundations were severely damaged by an earthquake. The power station was intended to have an output of 692 megawatts, its chimney was 110 m high, and it cost one billion Euros.
After the referendum parts of the power station were taken down and some spare parts were taken to three similar plants in Germany. A thermal power station was built nearby and the remainder of the nuclear plant was used for research, security training and as a venue for filming. A solar power facility was built on site from 2009.
The plant is open to visitors but only on guided tours that must be booked in advance. Visitors can see the whole of the plant, including the top of the inner core of the reactor, which is safe since it has never been in operation. The tours also include the control centre, the rod insertion mechanisms, the reactor hall and the turbine hall. Ironically the introductory presentation includes a documentary film made before the referendum of 1978 predicting that nuclear power would bring prosperity to Austria.