Unit 1 of Slovakia’s Mochovce nuclear power plant started up on 8 June despite intense negative pressure from Austria and widespread environmental protests. The reactor, a VVER 440-213, is now set to be at full power by 22 July followed by a six month trial operation period. Unit 2 is due to be commissioned next year.
Construction began in 1983, before being interrupted by funding problems in the early 1990s. In 1995, the Slovak government decided in favour of completing units 1 and 2, and the work, combined with significant safety upgrades, started in September of that year. A spokesman for the plant said first criticality was reached at 03:37 local time after the go-ahead was given by the Slovak nuclear regulatory authority, UJD SR.
The Austrian government has campaigned consistently to prevent the reactor from entering service.
According to the government in Bratislava, electricity from Mochovce is essential for the Slovak economy. “Mochovce meets the most up-to-date technical safety requirements,” says the chairman of the Slovak national regulatory authority, Miroslav Lipar. This has been made possible, he says, thanks to an exemplary safety upgrade programme involving strong East-West co-operation.
“The current Mochovce project focuses on completion of units 1 and 2. No decision has been taken yet about finishing units 3 and 4; their future depends mostly on finance,” he added. The revived Mochovce project was entirely financed by Czech, French, German, Russian, and Slovak bank loans, without relying on any international aid. Most of the work was allocated to Czechoslovak companies or institutes. After the division of Czechoslovakia and the restart of the project, the Slovak national utility, Slovenska Elektrarne (SE), contracted the services of several Eastern and Western companies.
The Western participants are Framatome and Siemens KWU, acting jointly within the EUCOM consortium, doing about 50% of the safety upgrades. Electricité de France (EDF) is also on-site, strongly involved in overall project management and preparing for operation.
Units 1 and 2 have been upgraded and modernised based on assessments by the IAEA and Riskaudit, the joint-venture of the German and French nuclear safety agencies, GRS and IPSN. These mainly concerned accident prevention (seismic, containment and fire protection), and improvement of the instrumentation and control (I&C) and information systems available to the reactor operators. SE elaborated a safety upgrade programme of 87 measures. Completion work is now being evaluated in detail by the Slovak nuclear regulatory authority (NRA). The first two Mochovce units, when running on full stream, should cover all Slovakia’s electrical energy imports, which currently account for 14% of electricity consumption.