Czech President Miloš Zeman on 27 September signed into law the Act on Measures for the Czech Republic's Transition to Low-Carbon Energy and on the Amendment of Act No 165/2000 Coll On Supported Energy Sources (known as Lex Dukovany). The law, allows a state-owned company to purchase electricity from new nuclear plants at a fixed rate for at least 30 years, with the possibility of extension. The power will be resold on the wholesale market and any profit or loss translated into an adjustment to power bills, although the government said it will set an upper limit on any extra cost.

"In addition to stable electricity supplies," Lex Dukovany reads, "nuclear power plants also enable the provision of stable heat supplies, which is another advantage due to the extensive system of central heat supply in the Czech Republic." Therefore, "Nuclear energy has been identified as the primary means of ensuring energy security in the Czech Republic in the context of achieving the goal of a climate-neutral EU by 2050 due to its ability to ensure low-carbon, stable and cheap electricity supplies." Policies currently in place should see coal phased out in the Czech Republic in 2038, although the International Energy Agency recently encouraged a faster schedule. By that time renewables are expected to provide 25% of electricity and nuclear as much as 58%. 

The Czech Republic operates six commercial nuclear power units – four Soviet-built VVER-440s at the the Dukovany NPP and two Russian VVER-1000 units at the Temelin NPP, which together provided about 35% of total electricity production. The current units at Dukovany, which were commissioned in 1985-1987, will be decommissioned no later than 2045-2047.

However, the new law also specifies that Russian and Chinese companies will not be allowed to participate in either the construction or maintenance of the new unit to be built at the Dukovany NPP. It states that only technology from suppliers from countries that have acceded to the 1996 International Government Procurement Agreement will be accepted. Russia and China are not among the signatory states. The law was previously adopted by the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. However, with general elections scheduled for November, the composition of the parliament could change.

Originally, many government ministers and President Zeman were supportive of Russian technology for new nuclear plants. However, under pressure from right-wing political parties in parliament and the security services, the Ministry of Industry and Trade announced its intention to exclude China at the end of March and Rosatom was excluded in mid-April. Russia’s exclusion followed allegations of Russian involvement in explosions at the ammunition complex in Vrbetice in the Zlín region in 2014.

Minister of Industry and Trade Karel Havlíček said that, as well as the new unit at  Dukovany, two other reactors could be constructed at the Temelín NPP by the company that wins the tender for the Dukovany unit. A non-binding option for the possible construction of one or two units in Temelín will be part of the tender documentation for the project, he told Práva. "If we  are in the next government, we will also start preparing for Temelín. We say that, whoever wants to deliver to Dukovany, could also  be connected with Temelín. It is a greater motivation for the suppliers, and so we are pushing even harder on the price," he said.

The tender documentation will be handed over by state-owned power company ČEZ as an investor to companies that apply to take part in the tender, which should start by the end of the year. Before that, interested parties must submit a completed safety questionnaire, which ČEZ has already sent to the companies and which must be submitted by 30 November.

Havlíček's deputy Tomáš Ehler also confirmed that the tender contains an option for the completion of Temelín. However, he underlined that the option is non-binding and is therefore one of the bases for future decisions by the investor and the state on the development of nuclear resources. "Nevertheless, from a technical and economic point of view, it makes sense to build and operate a single type of unit in the Czech Republic from one supplier," Ehler told Práva.

Asked if the state decides to build more units and the winner of the Dukovany tender would like to take this option then that company would receive the contract for Temelín without competition, Ehler added. Every company has advantages and disadvantages, we do not want to anticipate a specific model now."

According to Havlíček, during meetings with potential participants in the tender, including the France’s EDF, South Korea’s KHNP and the US-based Westinghouse, there is interest in linking Temelín  to the Dukovany tender. "In other words, this is expected to put a downward pressure on prices. They perceive it very positively, because building two or three units is a quite different matter compared with a single unit.  

Havlíček said new Temelín units will be needed. "Anyone who is sensible and sees the situation in Europe knows that we need to phase out 10,000MWe of coal. We have 4,000MWe of nuclear resources and Dukovany will eventually have to close at best, in the 2040s, and worse in the 2030s, and that will leave us with only 2,000 MWe," he said. He noted that the planned fifth Dukovany will only replace half of the current Dukovany capacity.

It will be decided after the elections whether other Temelín units will be built. "If we are in government, just as I pressed for the completion of Dukovany, we will not wait and we will proceed in a similar way," said Havlíček. He stressed that the timetable has been established for the tender for Dukovany as well as the investor, supplier and financial model and notification with the European Commission has started.

"We have put together all the agreements with ČEZ  and the law on measures for the transition of the Czech Republic to low-carbon energy has been approved, which is, among other things, the basis for a possible expansion of Temelín." He explained that the process would be easier for Temelín, because  most of the preparations are already in place thanks to the tender for Dukovany.

CEZ wants to have an evaluated order of tender participants by the end of next year, construction should begin in 2029. The new unit should be put into operation in 2036. According to Havlíček, the fundamental requirement of the state is the greatest possible involvement of Czech companies. "Sixty percent is the minimum for me. We are already cooperating with Czech suppliers, meeting them and it is a huge chance for Czech industry.” 

Meanwhile, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a press conference on 28 September hat China still hopes to take part in the Dukovany tender. "We hope that the Czech Republic will strictly adhere to the principles of fair competition and market economy and create an open, fair, transparent and non-discriminatory business environment for foreign investment and proper operation," she said.