Czech utility CEZ has requested that the country's Ministry of the Environment conduct an environmental impact assessment (EIA) of two additional reactors at the Temelin nuclear power plant.
Temelin (Image: CEZ)
The Temelin plant was originally intended to house four Russian-designed reactors, but plans were scaled back to the current two units following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989.
Work started on the Temelin plant in 1982, with two VVER-1000 type V-320 reactors, designed by Russian organisations and Energoproject and built by VSB with engineering by Skoda Praha. Construction was delayed and when it resumed in the mid 1990s, Westinghouse instrument and control systems were incorporated. The reactors started up in 2000 and 2002, with the upgrading having been financed by CEZ with a loan from the World Bank.
CEZ, which is mainly owned by the Czech government, has suspended its plans for nuclear expansion since the national election in 2006, when a new coalition government agreed not to promote nuclear energy due to opposition from the junior ruling partner, the Green Party. However, senior government representatives, including prime minister Mirek Topolanek, as well as opposition parties, have since advocated nuclear energy.
CEZ said that a government expert commission had recently confirmed the company's forecast that the Czech Republic would start to face an electricity shortage after 2015. Martin Roman, CEO of CEZ, said: "We plan savings and also renewable resource development; however, there is still no other non-emission resource that could generate the necessary volume of electricity. We consider nuclear energy to be the best possible solution in terms of economy and ecology as well." He added, "As a result, we are considering the possibility to complete another two of the originally designed units in Temelin and the EIA is one of the steps in the process of data collection."
In a statement, the company said: "CEZ understands the submission of the request for an EIA is a technical step outside of political decision making. We assume that the political representation will be able to use the complex environmental impact assessment of the plant as one of the sources [of information] for their own decision making in the future."
According to an Agence France Presse report, the Czech prime minister told Czech media that CEZ's request for an EIA would not break the coalition pact, adding that the next government would probably have to decide on whether a new nuclear power plant could be constructed or not.
CEZ owns and operates the Czech Republic's two nuclear power stations (Temelin and Dukovany), and plans have long been mooted for the construction of two further nuclear units at the existing Temelin nuclear power station. The existing nuclear plants supplied some 30% of the country's electricity in 2007.