Czech Republic commits to nuclear new-build

11 July 2019

The Czech Ministry of Industry and Trade on 8 July published a resolution giving preliminary approval for Elektrárna Dukovany II, a subsidiary of power utility CEZ, which is 70% state-owned, to build at least one new reactor, with up to three more at the Dukovany and Temelín nuclear plants.

The government in 2015 had approved a new state energy policy recommending that CEZ, which owns and operates the Dukovany and Temelín plants, should create a subsidiary company to look into building and financing new reactors. The government said it would provide loan guarantees to help secure financing for any new reactors.

The government also approved an increased budget for the ministry to prepare for nuclear plant construction and a team of advisors to its special envoy for nuclear energy, Jaroslav Míl, for 2019-2022. The advisory team will have five members: Jan Vacík, Vojtech Michalec, Jaromír Novák, Vladivoj Rezník and Jana Siegerová, all renowned experts in the field of nuclear energy and construction.

The resolution said: “The investor of the construction will be Elektrárna Dukovany II, which is a 100% subsidiary of CEZ.

"A contract will be concluded between the state and the CEZ Group that will enable the company to obtain credit for the construction of new nuclear sources under the same conditions as if the state were borrowing the money.

"The state will also guarantee the stability of the legislative and regulatory environments and possible compensation for change."

However it noted that the state will not provide a return guarantee for a contract-for-difference as did the UK [government] for Hinkley Point. It said: "The investor model chosen is the basis for negotiations with the European Commission.”

The ministry said new nuclear reactors are needed to help the Czech Republic meet emissions reduction targets and goals for energy security. “Ministers perceive the construction of new nuclear sources as a precondition for ensuring secure supplies of electricity and energy self-sufficiency in the Czech Republic."

The new units “will be a low-emission, stable source of electricity and heat,” the resolution said. State Energy Policy envisages increasing the share of nuclear energy in electricity production from the current 30% to 46% and then to 58%. There will be a gradual reduction in coal combustion, it noted.

Minister of Industry and Trade Karel Havlicek told a press conference that the government was “moving from the stage of talking about constructing new nuclear capacity to taking specific steps to prepare for new capacity.”  He said:
“The first unit with a capacity of 100MWe will be built at Dukovany NPP.   There will be a tender for construction, the beginning of which can be expected around 2028-2030. The launch of the new unit could take place in 2034-2035."  The main criteria for choosing the winner of the tender will be safety, price, technological capabilities. “Geopolitical issues will also be taken into account because when concluding a contract with a particular company, partnership with the country that it represents will have to continue for 60-70 years."  

Both Dukovany and Temelin were built with Soviet assistance built at different times by Soviet projects. Dukovany, was launched in 1985-1987 and has four VVER-440 units with a total capacity of 2040 MWe. Temelin began operation in 2002, and comprises two VVER-1000 units with a total capacity of 2160MWe.  The fuel for both stations is supplied by Russian fuel company Tvel, part of state nuclear corporation Rosatom.  

Six companies have already applied for participation in the tender for the construction of new units: Rosatom, France’s EDF, Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power, China General Nuclear Power, US-based Westinghouse and Atmea (a joint project of  France’s Areva and Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries). Rosatom director general Alexey Likhachev said on 9 July: “Of course, we will take part. Everything will depend on the final configuration of the conditions that the Czech side will put forward.”  He added: "We need to understand that our technologies are well-known in the Czech Republic, and existing reactors work there extremely efficiently. In this sense, we hope for a certain continuity with Czech power engineering specialists. At the same time, the market is the market, competition is competition, so no-one can predict the results right now.”

Photo: The first new unit is planned for Dukovany (Credit: CEZ)

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