Czech nuclear plans spark interest

5 November 2017

The US Nuclear Energy Institute recently hosted a senior Czech nuclear energy delegation for a meeting with a large group of US nuclear suppliers, NEI said on its website on 2 November. The Czech contingent was led by Lenka Kovacovská, deputy minister of industry and trade, and Ján Štuller, the ministry’s special nuclear envoy.

The Czech government is preparing to act on its 2015 “national action plan” to build new reactors, to both replace existing coal and nuclear plants and to expand clean baseload energy resources to help meet its national carbon reduction commitments. Support for nuclear energy is strong in the Czech Republic both among the public and all but one of the nine political parties, Kovacovská noted. “We believe we cannot decarbonise our energy sector without nuclear,” she said. Štuller noted the lack of hydroelectric and other energy sources means “we have no such choices, which leads us to nuclear”.

The Czech Republic currently operates six Russian-design pressurised water reactors which provide more than 30% of its electricity. Four VVER-440 reactors have been operating at Dukovany since the late 1980s, and two VVER-1000s at Temelin came online in 2000 and 2003. Power utility CEZ, which owns and operates both plants, is 70% government-owned.

The national energy plan envisages decommissioning the Dukovany reactors to begin by 2035, by which time some 2500MWe of new nuclear capacity should be built at the site, Štuller explained. The broader goal is to replace half the ageing coal and nuclear capacity with new nuclear build by 2040, which would require at least four new 1000MWe reactors.  An environmental impact analysis for Dukovany began in July 2016 and should be completed next year, Štuller added. Construction of Dukovany 5&6 is planned to start in 2027.

CEZ published a request for information from ten reactor vendors in July 2016. Among the companies that have “responded positively” are the Areva-Mitsubishi Heavy Industries joint venture Atmea, China General Nuclear Power Corporation, Electricite de France, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom and US-based Westinghouse Electric Co (part of Japan’s Toshiba).

Štuller said financing the projects is still being discussed, and the energy ministry is considering whether the government should provide CEZ with 100% financing. The October general election resulted in billionaire Andrej Babiš likely to lead a minority coalition government. Babiš has said he favours CEZ financing the project without direct foreign investment and bringing the company under more direct government control. However, Kovacovská said her ministry would provide the new government with different funding and business case scenarios to be used as guidance. “Right now we’re not excluding any options,” she said.

The South Korean government on 30 October said it planned to bid for the Czech nuclear projects. Paik Un-gyu, South Korean minister of trade, industry and energy, met with President of the Czech Republic's Senate Milan Stech during his visit to Korea, to discuss ways to expand cooperation in the nuclear energy and other industrial sectors. "South Korea is keen on joining the Czech's nuclear plant construction project and hopes to contribute to its nuclear industry's development," Paik was quoted as saying. Earlier in October, Stuller, visited Korean nuclear complexes to inspect the facilities and their safety.


Photo: Czech delegation recently met with US nuclear suppliers (Credit: Nuclear Energy Institute)



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