Czech energy strategy embraces nuclear without 'subsidies'

20 May 2015

The share of nuclear power in the Czech Republic's electricity generation mix is expected to rise from about 35% currently to between 46% and 58% by 2040. The target is part of the pro-nuclear elements of a long-term energy strategy - ASEK, according to its Czech acronym - which the country's trade and industry ministry published yesterday.

Lignite on the other hand is expected to fall from its place as the main fuel for generating electricity to a share of between 11% and 21%. Renewable energy could account for up to a quarter of power produced and natural gas between 5% and 15%, according to the strategy.

In 2013, the country produced 87.1 terawatt hours of electricity, of which 44.2 TWh was from coal and 30.7 TWh from nuclear, with net exports of 17 TWh. More than 80% of the country's gas comes from Russia. It has six nuclear power reactors, four at Dukovany and two at Temelín.

The aim to support the increased use of nuclear power and renewable energy is part of the country's commitment to a European Union target for cutting carbon emissions, the ministry said in a statement yesterday.

It added: "ASEK's mission is to provide reliable, safe and environmentally friendly energy supply for the needs of the population and the national economy, and also to ensure that the Czech Republic will have a steady supply of energy even during potential emergency situations."

Jan Mládek, trade and industry minister, said in the same statement that the country's national energy policy of 2004 had "already been superseded" and that it "in many respects did not reflect a number of events that had occurred in the energy sector and in the European economy”. Adoption of the updated strategy was needed in order to meet "European goals", he said, especially with regard to climate and energy policy.

Mládek told local reporters that the Czech Republic "has a lot of nuclear know-how that ought to be safeguarded", Prague Radio said. Although a Russian company, TVEL, supplies fuel rods for Czech reactors, the country could stockpile uranium sourced from its own mines and sources of the fuel could be diversified in the future, Mládek reportedly said.

The government expects two new reactors to be built at the Temelín and Dukovany nuclear power plants, according to the new strategy.

But finance minister Andrej Babiš and prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka have reportedly said they are opposed to the state giving guarantees for the price of electricity generated from new nuclear reactors. They see such guarantees as state subsidies for nuclear power, which they are against. For that reason, state-owned utility ČEZ last year cancelled a tender for its plan to expand the Temelín nuclear power plant.

"We definitely have to build one new nuclear unit in Dukovany and then one in Temelín," Babis told reporters on 18 May, following a government meeting in Prague, according to Bloomberg.

"We should look for all possible avenues to further develop Dukovany and Temelín, but without having to provide guarantees that would present a risk for the state budget," Sobotka said at the same press conference.

The tender process for two new Temelín units was launched in August 2009 and attracted bids from three candidates - Areva; Westinghouse; and a consortium between Škoda JS, AtomStroyExport and OKB Gidropress. However, ČEZ informed Areva in October 2012 that its bid had been disqualified. ČEZ had expected to select the reactor supplier in September 2013 and to sign the construction contract by the end of that year. The units had been scheduled to begin operating in 2023 and 2024.

But, ČEZ - which is 70% state owned - announced on 10 April 2014 that it had cancelled the process in accordance with the Public Procurement Act. The move followed a meeting of the cabinet the previous day, at which the Czech government declared that, while it supports nuclear energy development in the country, it would not provide any guarantees to the project. ČEZ had been seeking an agreement with the government to guarantee future electricity prices from the new Temelín units.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News