Conference: Czech politicians show support for nuclear energy

30 September 2021

Representatives of the main political parties running in the forthcoming Czech parliamentary elections agreed the country needs nuclear energy in its future energy mix, Tomáš Kovalovský, chairman of the Czech Nuclear Association, and Tomáš Měřínský, chairman of Sekurkon, write in an overview of the Nuclear Power - New Nuclear Builds conference, held on 23 September in Prague.

Participants in the conference (Image: Czech Nuclear Association)

The conference was prepared in cooperation with the Association of Building Entrepreneurs (SPS), the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MPO) and the Czech Power Industry Alliance (CPIA). The conference organiser was the agency Sekurkon, s.r.o.

The event was attended by representatives of the Ministry of Industry and Trade, power utility ČEZ, the Nuclear Research Institute Řež, the Technology Agency of the Czech Republic, the academic community and potential suppliers for the new nuclear unit at the existing Dukovany plant. The event was also attended by members of the public and the media.

Tomáš Ehler, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade for Nuclear Power, stated the construction of a single new nuclear unit at Dukovany will not be sufficient to meet the Czech commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, even if the share of renewables in the energy mix continues to grow after the decommissioning of the country's coal-fired power stations. It will be necessary to build at least one more nuclear unit at Dukovany and two further units at Temelín, he said. However, the question is whether the government, which is the majority owner of ČEZ, will be able to assert its will and persuade the company's board of directors to approve the preparation for these additional new nuclear units.

Tomáš Pleskač, a member of ČEZ's board of directors, said in the long-run ČEZ plans to commission only one new nuclear unit at Dukovany and to commission 6000 MW in solar plants to replace the output from the decommissioned coal-fired stations. The company will analyse the possible deployment of small modular reactors (SMRs) and, after they become commercially available in the late 2030s, it envisages the construction of SMRs with a combined capacity of about 1000 MW.

Pleskač said he believes the operational life of the VVER-440 units at Dukovany will be successfully extended to 60 years, that is to 2045-2047, without the need to replace the steam generators. He added that if this is not feasible then there is "plan B" to build gas-fired power plants.

Representatives of research institutes, the academic community and the Czech Technology Agency have already expressed their readiness to participate fully in the project to develop new nuclear capacities in the Czech Republic.

The same attitude resonated in the discussion panels organised by the Association of Building Entrepreneurs and the Czech Power Industry Alliance. The terms and conditions negotiated between ČEZ (the customer and nuclear project owner) and the future vendor (the winner of the tender) will be of the utmost importance for the application of the proposed EPC Flexi model and the involvement of the Czech industry and building sector in the implementation of new nuclear projects.

For Czech companies, it is of great importance whether the tender and the subsequent contract with the winner will contain an option for a second unit at Dukovany and two units at Temelín. Without such a guarantee the involvement of many Czech industrial companies in the supply chain of the winning bidder will be at risk because localisation is a costly exercise requiring much money to be invested in necessary quality certifications (such as ASME Code, RCCM Code, etc.), as well as on new production equipment. For many companies, a single unit cannot justify the high costs nor deliver the necessary return on investment.

Representatives of EDF, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power and Westinghouse presented the projects they intend to tender, i.e. the EPR 1200, APR-1000 and AP1000, respectively. The companies are currently working on answering the questions they received in the security forms sent to them by ČEZ as part of the tender process. The deadline for their responses is the end of November and all three of them expect the call for tender to be published soon.

In the last session of the conference, representatives of the most important political parties running in the forthcoming parliamentary elections - to be held on 8 and 9 October - discussed the prospects for nuclear power in the Czech Republic. All the representatives said the country needs nuclear power in its future energy mix in order to meet its commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and move towards carbon neutrality.

We can only hope that the winners of the parliamentary election will advocate and defend nuclear power plants which, together with renewables, should ensure the Czech Republic's energy security in the future and be instrumental in its path to carbon neutrality.

Tomáš Kovalovský
Chairman of the Czech Nuclear Association

Tomáš Měřínský
Chairman of Sekurkon