A small modular reactor (SMR) could be built in the Czech Republic at the Temelín NPP as early as 2032, Daniel Beneš, the Director of the ČEZ power group has said after signing a contract for the establishment of the South Bohemia Nuclear Park. South Bohemian Governor Martin Kuba, addressing an international conference, said: "We realise that nuclear energy is something that we fundamentally need in the republic. "Czech industry is not only driven by renewable sources, we are not Norway, which has unlimited water capacities and produces 95% of its energy with clean hydropower plants."

This is why it was decided to establish the South Bohemian Energy Park, using the Temelin site to build the first SMR in Europe, including an educational centre for engineers, specialists and other technical professions, he added. "We thus have a unique opportunity to participate in the construction and development of a technical background where experts from all over Europe can be educated."

The joint company South Bohemia Nuclear Park aims to facilitate construction of the first pilot project at Temelín which offers a protected, research space, and the presence of professional staff to ensure a synergistic effect during planning, construction and operation.

This project has the support of the government, Prime Minister Petr Fiala said. "In the context of the situation in Europe, the signing of this agreement is an extremely important step. This is a landmark year, the war in Ukraine shook the international order, tested allied relations and showed the danger of dependence on resources and raw materials from risky countries," he noted

"Due to supply cuts, we are facing an unprecedented increase in the price of electricity and gas, a situation that threatens us and with which we must deal quickly,” he said. “The government is reacting to it with acute measures, but this is not enough, and that is why we are also working on longer-term solutions that will strengthen our energy security and independence," he explained, adding that it also involves building a SMR. "These are smaller mass-produced devices that largely overcome some of the disadvantages of existing reactors. They could replace ageing power plants and heating plants," he concluded.

Beneš emphasised that Temelin is the best possible place for the pilot project. "At the same time, preparation for the construction of two new standard units continues. We are also working on the project of a new nuclear unit at the Dukovany NPP, where we expect offers by the end of November. These buildings are not in competition with the small modular reactors we are talking about." He added that SMRs are complementary technologies and are more suitable for a range of different locations. "Everything is based on the energy mix, the Czech energy mix largely relies on nuclear energy."

In the last year, the ČEZ Group has accelerated activities related to the SMR project, having already signed memorandums of cooperation with NuScale, GE Hitachi, Rolls Royce, EDF, KHNP and Holtec. Through its subsidiary ÚJV Řež, it is also developing SMRs locally. The HeFASTo project or the Energywell project are at an advanced stage of research and intensive cooperation is also underway with Westinghouse.

"There are seven companies in the world that deal with the preparation of such projects. We are in very active communication with all of them, we have signed memoranda of cooperation with them. They should put the first installations into operation before 2030. We have a feeling that these technologies will be ground-breaking. It makes sense to build the first pilot project next to the Temelín cooling towers.” He noted that some SMRs are almost as big as the nuclear units in Dukovany, but they are easier and faster to build than large nuclear reactors. He said the SMR in Temelín could be ready between 2032 and 2035.

"Given the current situation, we are accelerating this project. We see that it will be necessary to replace a number of coal-fired power plants and heating plants, while maintaining the maximum degree of self-sufficiency,” said Tomáš Pleskač, member of the ČEZ board of directors and director of the nuclear energy division. “SMRs are a safe and very efficient option from this point of view. "

The South Bohemian Nuclear Park is a joint project of all parties involved, covering research, development, communication and preparation of the building itself. However, an investor for the SMR has not been decided and investment costs have not yet been estimated.

Image: An agreement has been signed for the establishment of the South Bohemian Nuclear Park company dealing with the creation of a small modular reactor near Temelín (courtesy of Diary/Lenka Pospíšilová)