The Czech Republic and Slovakia see nuclear power as key to their future energy mix. But new reactors needed in both states, however, face financing problems due to the low price of electricity. EURACTIV.cz reports.
Slovakia will always strive for the further development of nuclear energy, Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said in Prague at the plenary meeting of European Nuclear Energy Forum (ENEF) on Tuesday (23 May).
“Our government will never abandon this policy and will always fight for the right to choose the way for the production of energy in the future,” he stressed.
His Czech counterpart, Bohuslav Sobotka, also said nuclear energy is the right option for the energy mix of his country and that “there is no other way”.
“Nuclear energy brings stability, not only in terms of the grid security but also with respect to the long-term energy self-sufficiency. Therefore, I cannot agree that the use of nuclear energy is being ideologized. There are efforts to diminish its role, like what happened in other countries,” Sobotka told the conference.
Both the Czech and Slovak governments see nuclear power as a guarantee of energy security as well as a tool to meet their climate commitments. Both countries are the proponents of the technology at EU level and alternate as hosts of the annual ENEF conference that is organised in cooperation with the European Commission.
Waiting for better times
The Czech Republic is counting on nuclear power to replace coal as the main source of electricity. Its share should rise from a current 33% up to 45 or 50% over the next 23 years.
Visegrád countries are seeking ways to ensure energy security while delivering on their climate commitments. Nuclear is seen as the ideal solution by some, with natural gas playing a limited role. EURACTIV’s Central European partners report.
One new nuclear reactor is planned for the power plant in Dukovany, where the current reactors will be shut down by 2037. Sobotka said that documentation for an environmental impact assessment is being prepared, and the final statement could be published next year.
The current reactors powering both Czech nuclear plants – the aforementioned Dukovany and Temelín – are examples of Russian VVER technology, but the premier said that all available technologies are being compared when it comes to the planned construction.
In Slovakia, 55% of the electricity is produced by nuclear plants, which means that globally it is one of the countries with the highest share of nuclear in its energy mix.
Two new reactors are being finalised at the plant in Mochovce, and one new reactor is planned for construction in Jaslovské Bohunice.
According to Slovak Minister of Energy Peter Žiga, the project is technically prepared, but current economic conditions are not favourable. “We are waiting for better times, when the prices of electricity at the wholesale market will be a bit higher,” he said.
Subsidies for everyone
Nuclear energy struggles with the economy all over Europe, Martin Sedlák, the director of Czech Alliance for energy self-sufficiency said in a debate organized by EURACTIV Czech Republic and its media partner, Aktuálně.cz.
“The assumption of nuclear renaissance connected with the reactors of III+ generation has not materialized. Nuclear companies promised that the investment costs of nuclear reactors will fall rapidly. But if we look to Finland, France or the US, we can see that the construction becomes complicated. This has also consequences for new projects like Hinkley Point C in the United Kingdom which requires high subsidies,” Sedlák said.
The model for financing the new reactor in Dukovany, worth around €4 billion, is still unclear, and Prime Minister Sobotka has said in the past that there is no will to offer any kind of price guarantees.
“It is the economy which kills nuclear power, but the economy is distorted by subsidies for renewable energy. If there were no subsidies for renewables, the price of electricity would be totally different,” the Czech Communist MEP Kateřina Konečná (GUE/NGL) stressed in the debate.
“Nuclear energy is still the cheapest available,” chief economist of the Czech utility ČEZ Pavel Řežábek said. “If there is a functional nuclear bloc, the price cannot be compared to anything else. This is why we should keep the existing nuclear reactors as long as possible,” he said, adding that the investment costs of new reactors must be considered also in the context of energy security.
“The question is how much we are willing to pay for the security of supply,” Řežábek stated.
At the Riga summit yesterday (21 May) Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania signed a Joint Declaration backing the idea of building the Eastring gas pipeline, designed to link Central with Southeastern Europe. However the name Eastring doesn’t appear in the document.