Czech support for nuclear energy expansion

21 May 2008

A letter in support of the further development of nuclear energy in the European Union (EU) has been signed by all 24 Czech members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and published in the Czech press.

The second meeting of the European Nuclear Energy Forum (Enef) is scheduled to be held in Prague, Czech Republic, on 22-23 May. The letter said that "without nuclear energy as a vital component of a low-carbon energy mix the Community will not be able to meet its energy security, energy independence and CO2 emissions reduction goals." It said that the Enef has "provided a much-needed endorsement of the pivotal role nuclear energy plays in the EU's current and future low-carbon economy" and "has, finally, put nuclear energy on an equal footing with other major energy sources." The letter closed by saying it hoped the Prague meeting will "further advance open and transparent dialogue on nuclear energy matters."

Santiago San Antonio, director general of Foratom, the European nuclear industry trade association, described the letter as a "timely and significant statement of support." He added, "It is a unique political statement because all Czech MEPs, regardless of individual party affiliations, have unanimously pledged their support."

Domestic nuclear expansion

Meanwhile, Vladimir Hlavinka, chief production office at Czech utility CEZ, has said the company should prepare itself to construct new nuclear power reactors in the country to ensure stable power supplies after 2020.

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.

Hlavinka told Reuters, "It is high time to start preparations of new nuclear blocks by entering the legislation process." He added, "I can hardly imagine that CEZ will start to manoeuvre outside the field set by its owner. But it is necessary to sensitively persuade, explain ... at a certain stage of the whole process, there has to be a decision, and the moment has not yet come."

He suggested that adding two new reactors with capacities of 1000 MWe or above at the existing Temelin plant would be the most efficient as the site was originally planned to house four units. However, he also said expansion of the Dukovany plant was also possible.