Tender launched for new Slovak reactors

26 August 2008

Slovakian utility Slovenske Elektrarne (SE) has launched a tender for the construction of two new reactors at the Mochovce nuclear power plant.

The Mochovce plant (Image: SE)

The tender, concerning the refurbishment of the civil part of conventional sections of the nuclear power plant, was published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 25 June. SE - 66% owned by Italy's Enel - said that bidders should submit letters of interest by 18 September. The assumed deadline for submitting bids is 8 December.


The company said that construction work at the third and fourth units at Mochovce is scheduled to start on 1 April 2009. The reactors are expected to be completed by the end of June 2011.

In 1981, construction of the four-unit Mochovce nuclear power plant was commenced by Skoda, using Russian-design VVER 440/213 pressurized water reactor units. Work on units 3 and 4 was started in 1986 and halted in 1992. The first two were completed in 1998 and 2000, respectively, to supply 440 MWe each. Units 1 and 2 have been significantly upgraded and the instrument and control systems replaced with assistance from western companies. Units 3 and 4 - also VVER-440 units - have remained partly built.

In October 2004, the Slovak government approved Enel's bid to acquire 66% of SE as part of its privatization process. Enel's subsequent investment plan, approved in 2005, involves €1.88 billion ($2.75 billion) investment to increase generating capacity, including €1.6 billion ($2.3 billion) for completion of Mochovce units 3 and 4 by 2011-12. In January 2006, the government approved a new energy strategy incorporating these plans.

In February 2007, SE announced that it would proceed with Mochovce 3 and 4 construction, and that ENEL had agreed to invest €1.8 billion ($2.6 billion) on this with a view to operation in 2012-13. SE has already invested €576 million ($844 million) in the two units. The government is depending substantially on the original 1986 construction permit including environmental clearance, which is now being challenged, with the need for a full new environmental impact assessment under EU law being asserted.

In May 2008, a consortium led by Skoda JS and including Russia's AtomStroyExport (ASE) and three Slovakian suppliers submitted a bid to the tender for completing the nuclear islands at units 3 and 4 of Mochovce.

In mid 2008, the European Commission approved SE's plans for Mochovce 3 and 4 subject to the design being brought into line with existing best practice for resistance to aircraft impacts. It is not clear what this means, though the approval is simply to enable financing. The reactor's containment walls will be 1.5 metres thick and apparently the plant will be in compliance with safety requirements established in 2007 by the Western European Nuclear Regulators Association for existing reactors.

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.