Two new reactors will cover 22% of Slovakia's electricity requirements from 2012 and 2013 after the official start of their completion.
The start of the €2.8 billion ($3.6 billion) project was inaugurated yesterday by Slovakia's prime minister, Robert Fico. Site preparation began in September 2007, and actual work to complete the reactors is now permitted after approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Authority of Slovakia.
|Mochovce (Image: Slovenské Electrárne)
Construction work began on Mochovce 3 and 4 in 1986 but stalled with the units incomplete in 1992. The plant components and buildings were maintained, however, and plans were drawn up to improve the safety systems of the reactors in order for them to begin operation now Slovakia is a member of the European Union. One factor was a need for the reactor containment walls to measure 1.5 metres in thickness as part of protection against aircraft impact.
Plant owner Slovenské Electrárne (SE) announced that the design modifications would "guarantee" that the two new units would "comply with or exceed" current international nuclear safety conventions.
Part of Slovakia's EU accession agreement had required the shutdown of two other Soviet-design power reactors: Bohunice 1 and 2, which could not be brought up to modern safety standards. Two other reactors were modified and continue to operate at the site, but one reactor was shut down in 2006 and the second is slated for closure at the end of this year.
Losing 400 MWe of power generating capacity with each shutdown, Slovakia has changed from a net exporter of power to a net importer. When the two Mochovce units are finished, the 880 MWe of new capacity will restore the former situation by adding the equivalent of 22% of Slovakia's entire electricity requirements.
SE currently has almost 6000 MWe of generating capacity and some 66% of its total production already comes from nuclear plants. With another 19% coming from hydro plants, the overall mix has a low carbon intensity.
About one third of SE is owned by Slovakia's National Property Fund, with the major part taken by Italian utility, Enel. That company's general manager, Fulvio Conti, said this nuclear project was a landmark in the firm's "European nuclear strategy."
Italian politicians have recently reversed old policies opposing nuclear power which had been brought in after a referendum on the heels of the Chernobyl disaster. Earlier, there had been a time when Italian companies were not even allowed to invest in nuclear projects abroad, but Enel was quick to move once this rule was changed. Today, Enel has interests in nuclear projects in France and Spain as well as Slovakia. In time it hopes to build nuclear power plants in Italy as well.