Slovakia signs cooperation agreement with France

18 September 2008

France and Slovakia have signed a joint political declaration on strategic partnership and a cooperation agreement on civilian nuclear energy.

Signing of the agreement (Image: Elysee)
The agreement was signed in Paris by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and visiting Slovak prime minister Robert Fico.

"France and Slovakia have clearly made the choice of nuclear energy", the French presidential office said. "Nuclear power accounts for 50% of electricity in Slovakia. Slovakia has some experience in the field but would like to grow considerably."

Fico was clearly impressed by Sarkozy's hospitality. "Slovakia is interested in a state-of-the-art and safest possible reactor," Fico said after the meeting. "For this reason, I will not deny the possibility of cooperation with France."

The cooperation agreement with Slovakia, which is seen as directed towards the future construction of an Areva Evolutionary Pressurized Water Reactor (EPR) in the country, is the latest is a series of such agreements that France has signed, particularly in North Africa and the Middle East, since Sarkozy became President in May 2007.

According to a report in the Slovak Spectator, the deal will see France acting as Slovakia's strategic partner in the construction of a new reactor at the existing Bohunice nuclear power plant. It added that a tender procedure for the construction of the unit would be launched by the end of 2008. "I have allowed the economy minister to move back that deadline to avoid scandals if the tender is not carried out before 31 December 2008," Fico reported added.

Slovakia currently operates five nuclear power reactors at two sites: the three units at Bohunice and two at Mochovce are all of the Russian VVER design. 

Under duress, as a precondition for Slovak entry into the EU in 2004, the Slovak government committed to closing the Bohunice V1 units 1 and 2 due to perceived safety deficiencies in that early model reactor. The original date specified for closing them down was 2000, though subsequently 2006 and 2008 were agreed in relation to EU accession. Slovakia aims to complete the third and fourth units at Mochovce to compensate for the lost generating capacity from the closure of the Bohunice units.

The Slovak government has also raised the prospect of building a fifth unit at Mochovce, and also new capacity at Bohunice or a new site, Kecerovce, in the east of the country. In March 2007, the German utility EOn notified its interest in building new reactors at Bohunice, and in October Czech utility CEZ indicated the same.