Czech power utility ČEZ says it has tentatively identified two preferred construction sites for small modular reactors (SMRs), in addition to the Temelín pilot location. The two sites in Dětmarovice and Tušimice are currently coal-fired power plants, which are being transformed for emission-free operation. As part of its Vision 2030, ČEZ Group is committed to preparing for the construction of SMRs with a total capacity of over 1,000 MWe after 2040.

In addition to these first three SMR construction sites, ČEZ is exploring other locations. These include the Prunéřov, Ledvice, Poříčí and Mělník coal sites as well as the Dukovany NPP. However, initial analysis has already recommended that the Poříčí power plant location should not be further developed due to the almost certain presence of a nearby active fault near the site, which precludes the placement of nuclear technology.

"Small modular reactors are not a substitute for large nuclear units, but a complement to the energy mix of the Czech Republic as a suitable replacement for coal-fired power plants and large thermal power plants,” says Tomáš Pleskač, member of the ČEZ Board of Directors and Chief Renewables Officer. “The SMR construction programme represents a great opportunity for the Czech economy. It offers production of nuclear equipment, substantial involvement in the supply chain, and the creation of a regional service and training centre.”

He added: “In order to take advantage of the opportunities of the SMR programme, action must be taken quickly. We expect that new nuclear sources, including SMRs, will also be significantly represented in the upcoming update of the State Energy Concept. This, in the long term, builds the Czech energy mix on a combination of nuclear and renewable sources."

The Dětmarovice and Tušimice power plant sites will undergo further intensive exploration and monitoring before it is finally clear whether they are suitable locations for a nuclear power source. The exploration work, which began in the first half of February, is primarily focused on excluding the existence of active tectonic faults, assessing the hydrogeology of the area and analysing the bedrock. This phase should be completed by the autumn and others will then follow. ČEZ noted that the transformation of a non-nuclear site into a nuclear site requires a series of exploration activities lasting 3-5 years before the permit process can begin.

The first SMR will be built near the Temelín NPP and should be completed before the new large nuclear unit is launched at the site, which is planned for 2040. ČEZ cooperates with the South Bohemian region and its subsidiary ÚJV Řež as part of the South Bohemia Nuclear Park, which covers research, development and preparation for construction. While the investor for the SMR has yet to be decided the site has been decided. The area is part of the wider Temelín NPP site, which has recently undergone a special seismic mission.

ČEZ Group has already signed a memoranda of cooperation om SMRs with NuScale, GE Hitachi, Rolls Royce, EDF, Westinghouse, KHNP and Holtec. ČEZ says it is ready to participate in the scientific research activities and development of SMRS for all these companies through its ÚJV Řež subsidiary.

Image: Artist's impression of how ČEZ's SMR might look (courtesy of ČEZ)