Slovenia to hold referendum on new nuclear

1 February 2024

Slovenia is to hold a consultative referendum this year on whether to build a second nuclear unit to replace the current one at the Krško NPP at the end of its operating life, which has been extended until 2043. Prime Minister Dr Robert Golob convened a political summit meeting to discuss Slovenia's energy self-sufficiency and the long-term use of nuclear energy, including the decision-including the possible construction of a new unit at Krško.

Slovenia plans to build a new nuclear plant (Krško-II) adjacent to the existing NPP a 696 MWe pressurised water reactor co-owned by neighbouring Croatia. The plant generates about a third of the Slovenia’s electricity. Krško-II, the JEK2 project, would have up to 2400 MWe capacity.

Those attending the meeting included Slovenian President Nataša Pirc Musar, National Assembly President Urško Klakocar Zupancic, National Council President Marko Lotric and the presidents of the five main parliamentary parties. Golob said all the parties agreed to holding a referendum. "So far, we are leaning towards holding the referendum in the second half of the year, there is no final date yet. We will continue to discuss this issue," he said. He noted that the referendum would also "decide whether we want nuclear energy to remain part of Slovenia's future".

Participants in the meeting undertook to work together on the wording of the referendum question. "In my opinion, there is a sincere willingness of all five parliamentary parties to find a question on which we will agree," Golob said. He told reporters that the meeting also agreed that Krško-II, estimated to cost €10bn ($10.8bn), "is such an important project… that it is essential to build a political consensus around it”.

Holding the referendum soon is seen as important for ensuring the speed of the development, with the aim of a final investment decision in 2027 or 2028 and the new capacity online in the 2030s. The meeting agreed to consider ways of expediting the legislative process relating to the new unit, according to the prime minister's office.

A working group of government ministers and industry officials was established in September 2023 to speed up implementation of the project and prepare "all the necessary bases for citizens to make high-quality and informed decisions". about it in a referendum which the government says is needed for the project to happen. In October, Krško plant operator GEN Energiia CEO Dejan Paravan said there were three technology providers being considered for the project - Westinghouse, EDF and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power - who all had strengths and "the decision will not be easy".

Speaking after the meeting he stressed that unification of policy in the recognition of nuclear energy as an integral part of the solution for the transition to a low-carbon and self-sufficient future is extremely important in further preparatory activities for the JEK2 project. “The support of the citizens of Slovenia expressed in the referendum would definitely speed up the project activities.”

GEN Energija says its activities are aimed at preparations siting the new plant, in coordinated with the government's working group so that a final investment decision on the project can be made “by 2028 at the latest”. In parallel, several studies are in the final phase, including a seismic study of the site and a study on connecting JEK2 to the electricity system of Slovenia, as well as the preparation of business model proposals and the supplier selection process.

Asked about potential cooperation of other countries and how much the taxpayer would pay, Golob said those decisions would be made once the final decision is made, including on the business model and who the investors are.

Other questions include how many investors there are, who they are and in what way the Slovenian side is involved, he added. “The Slovenian side can be GEN Energija, it can be Slovenian businessmen… we may issue bonds or even a public invitation for residents to take part," Golob said, noting that such questions are still open.

Image: How JEK2 could look, alongside the existing Krško plant (courtesy of GEN Energiia/JEK2)

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