Slovakia has relicensed its oldest reactor, Bohunice V1 unit 1, stating that an EU edict requiring its closure in 2006 is based on out-of-date information. The licence is theoretically valid for ten years, although in 1999, under pressure in negotiations to join the EU, the Slovak government pledged to shut both Bohunice V1 units in 2006 and 2008 respectively.

The EU has condemned the VVER-440 as not being upgradable to western safety standards, but since 1991 the unit has had more upgrading work on it than any other model of this type, costing some $300 million, and including seismic protection and major loss-of-cooling accident provision.

While lacking conventional containment structures, both units at Bohunice passed an IAEA design modification review last year. The calculated core damage frequency for the units is now half the target level set by the IAEA for older plants, and 3% of that estimated for the units in 1991. The Slovak government now has to reconcile its regulator’s judgement that the plant is safe for long-term operation with the EU demand for its closure.