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Czech Republic Wont Give Up Atomic Energy
September 2013 | Companies and Markets

photo by Valsts kanceleja

Then-Prime Minister of the Czech Republic Petr Necas, in his speech at the 8th Annual European Nuclear Energy Forum on May 30, announced that the Republic plans to continue developing nuclear energy. “I think that nuclear energy can not only strengthen our country’s energy security, but will also become an effective tool in reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions,” said the Prime Minister in his speech.

Necas also expressed confidence in the need to build additional reactors at the South Bohemian nuclear power plant. Because of the gradual closing of coal power plants in the Republic, it is becoming apparent that without two new reactors at Temelin, an energy catastrophe  is awaiting the Czech Republic. The government’s faith in renewable energy is fading, not least because the production capacity of wind power is low and energy prices are high. Another factor is the instability of renewable energy sources, which regularly lead to blackouts from system overload.

According to Necas, the European Union’s energy policy has reached a deadlock. Despite his government’s support for the Republic’s further integration into the European Union, the issue of applying EU directives in the area of energy remains open. The Czech government is extremely dissatisfied with the rapid growth in energy costs across Europe and the EU’s obsession with renewable energy.

However, not all members of the Czech government support developing nuclear energy in the Republic. For example, Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek believes that investments in the construction of nuclear power plants at Temelin are unlikely to pay off. The effectiveness of the power plants, according to him, remains in question.

Despite plans by the Czech government to close all existing coal power plants, with a total capacity of 1,800 megawatts, by 2020, the Finance Minister is sure that the country should focus on compliance with EU energy directives instead of the construction at Temelin. Kalousek spoke about this in an interview with the Czech magazine Hospodarske noviny.

“I don’t deny the potential effectiveness of the plant. But I have to weigh the efficiency of the investment,” Kalousek said in the interview. Above all, the Minister of Finance is bothered by the fact that the repayment schedule for Temelin is calculated based on much higher electricity prices. Currently, investments in the construction of the South Bohemian nuclear power plant are estimated at approximately 200-300 billion koruna (€8-12 billion). It is planned that the two new reactors will double its capacity, which is at the moment about 2,000 megawatts. The Czech energy provider plans to announce the winner of the construction tender in the fall. Construction should begin no later than 2016, and the two additional reactors must be connected to the national power grid by no later than 2025.

At the moment, two bidders remain: the American-Japanese Westinghouse Corporation and the Czech-Russian Consortium MIR.1200, made up of the Czech SKODA JS, and the Russian JSC Atomstroyexport and JSC OKB Gidropress. The French company Areva was also previously participating in the tender, but last October the Czech energy company removed it from the list of participants because of serious violations. However, the French company is rejecting the accusations and is trying to restore its right to participate, despite the Czech Antimonopoly Commission’s decision in February of this year that the exclusion of the company was legitimate.

The current situation with the remaining bidders remains up in the air. In March, representatives of Westinghouse Corporation announced that according to preliminary evaluations, they are leading the competition. CEO Danny Roderick said that the American project will win over the Russian companies’ in the key categories of technology and safety. Moreover, at the project hearings, Roderick stated that had the Fukushima power plant been equipped with Westinghouse reactors, “no one would have hard about any catastrophe.”

Both corporations say they plan to create jobs for Czechs. MIR.1200 representatives claim that the percentage of Czech employees will be 70% while Westinghouse puts the figure at 50-70%.

While the head of the American corporation was stating his certainty of winning this past spring, the situation has changed nearing the beginning of September. During a three-day visit to Russia in May, the Czech Prime Minister had spoken at length about the Temelin situation, causing much debate among experts. It’s no secret that the new President of the Czech Republic, Milos Zeman, relies on Russian investment for many things in his country and experts seem to think that Temelin could well be one of the projects built by Russian companies in the Czech Republic.

Text: Catalina Kochkina

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