Dukovany nuclear plantAn agreement between the Czech government and power utility CEZ on the construction of the new unit at the Dukovany nuclear plant will be announced in a few weeks, Industry Minister Karel Havlíček, said on 11 February, adding that the final details are still being fine-tuned.

A contractor would be selected by the end of 2022, and a building permit issued by 2029.

"We are absolutely determined that the new unit will be built. It is decided and cannot be retracted even slightly," Havlíček noted, adding that the timetable for construction is now being refined.

CEZ CEO Daniel Beneš confirmed that CEZ would be the investor and that the agreement regulates the rights and obligations of both parties. The tender for suppliers will be formally announced in December.

The Czech Republic currently has six nuclear reactors at two nuclear plants. Dukovany, which began operating in 1985, has four Soviet-designed VVER-440 reactors. Temelin NPP, operational since 2000 but licensed only until 2022, has two VVER-1000 units.

In 2014, power company CEZ cancelled the tender for construction of two new Temelin units after it failed to get state guarantees for the project.

Dukovany, with a total capacity of 2040MWe, supplies a fifth of the Czech Republic's electricity.

According to CEZ, the fifth unit planned for Dukovany is expected to have a capacity of 1200MWe. The state has set aside CZK 140-160 billion ($6-7bn) for the project.

Six companies have expressed interest in building new nuclear units in the Czech Republic –  China General Nuclear, EDF, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom, Westinghouse, and the Atmea consortium of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and EDF.

However, Vladivoj Reznik, a member of the Czech government-appointed team supervising the Dukovany project, has reportedly said the Atmea joint venture now no longer plans to participate.

The Czech government, which owns 70% of CEZ, has been in discussion with CEZ for years over how to finance new-build projects and now it seems a compromise has been reached.

CEZ has also expressed interest in small modular reactors (SMRs) and asked 11 suppliers of chosen projects for detailed technical information. CEZ has signed two contracts for sharing of technical information on SMRs with US NuScale last year and with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH).

CEZ CEO Benes said earlier in February: "As a company focused on developing new solutions and technologies for energy, we are already involved in small modular reactors, in particular through our subsidiary UJV Rez."

Photo: The existing Dukovany nuclear plant