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Czechs Move Cautiously Towards More Nuclear

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By Eva Weiler
IDN-InDepth NewsReport

PRAGUE (IDN) - The Czech Republic plans to lessen its dependence on coal and increase in the next 20 to 30 years the share of nuclear power to supply half of its energy needs under a new long-term energy policy unveiled by Prime Minister Petr Necas.

The policy document, drafted by the Industry and Trade Ministry and approved by the cabinet on November 8, also sets the way for the Czech Republic to achieve a 13 percent share of renewable sources in total energy consumption by 2020, as is required by the European Union, according to the Czech News Agency (ČTK).

It reports that after achieving the 13 percent target, "no operating support will be provided to any renewable source in the following period". The plan is to be revised every second year, which will allow for adjustment of the set target for renewable energy share. However, the target cannot drop below the 13 percent share required by the EU even after adjustments.

The new national strategic energy policy will now go forward for government approval. Developed by a high-level working group with input from the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the State Office for Nuclear Safety, the policy aims to achieve energy security with 80 percent of electricity produced domestically. "The strategic priority for the State Energy Policy is to achieve a balanced mix of energy sources," Necas said.

The Czech Republic currently produces some 60% of its electricity from coal, with its six nuclear units supplying just over 30%. The new policy wants this to change, with a decline in coal's share of the energy mix to one-third of its current levels by 2040, while nuclear grows to supply some 55%, according to the World Nuclear News.

The increase in nuclear will be achieved through the completion of Temelin units 3 and 4, life extensions to all four existing units at Dukovany and the construction of a further unit at Dukovany.

The construction of the new Temelin units has been envisaged in Czech policy since 2004 and a tender process is currently under way, with Czech utility CEZ expecting to select a reactor supplier and sign a construction contract by the end of 2013. Additional units at Dukovany have also long been envisaged as a possibility, and CEZ is already working to extend the lives of the existing Dukovany units to 60 years.

At the November 8 meeting, the Czech government cabinet also approved a renewable energy policy that aims to promote the use of renewable sources. Trade and industry minister Martin Kuba told a press conference that any growth in renewables must be achieved "naturally" and without major public funding.

Guaranteed Czech feed-in tariffs for solar are currently very high, and Kuba said the government would be aiming to reduce government support for the most expensive renewables from 2014, in order to protect the Czech economy from unsustainable price increases.

Criticism

The new energy policy has aroused criticism particulalrly in the Czech Republic and neighbouring Austria,. The nuclear-free Austria is concerned about the Czech Temelin nuclear power plant, situated 60 kilometres from the borders of Austria and the German state of Bavaria. Two new blocks are to be built in Temelin in future. The third and fourth blocks are to be completed in 2025.

The concern drives from the fact that there is no state policy on reprocessing and the decision is left to CEZ, which does not perceive it as being economic. However, the question remains open. CEZ is fully responsible for storage and management of its used fuel until it is handed over to the state organization Radioactive Waste Repository Authority (RAWRA).

According to the World Nuclear Association, used fuel is stored at each power plant. Originally, used fuel from Dukovany was sent to the interim storage facility at the Bohunice plant (now in Slovakia).

The dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993 meant that this used fuel originating from Dukovany was stored in a different country, and therefore required repatriation. An interim dry storage facility with capacity of 600 tonnes was built at Dukovany, and the plant's used fuel storage pools were reracked to increase capacity. The dry storage facility commenced operation in 1995 and since then another storage facility has been built there.

Reracking of storage pools has also taken place at Temelin, and in 2009 construction began on an interim dry storage facility there. It is expected to commence operation in 2010. CEZ creates an internal financial reserve for long-term used fuel storage.

An interim storage facility for used research reactor fuel is located at the Rez nuclear research institute.

At the beginning of 2000, ownership of the country's three repositories – Dukovany, Richard and Bratrstvi – were transferred to the state under the management of RAWRA. Waste from non-power applications is disposed of at the Richard and Bratrstvi repositories.

IEA cautions

In a recent in-depth review, the International Energy Agency (IEA) drew attention to the fact that rich in coal resources the Czech Republic is the third-largest electricity exporter in the European Union. The energy sector plays an important role for the country's economy and for the regional energy security.

The Czech government has a unique opportunity to develop coherent and balanced energy and climate strategies as it currently updates its policy documents. The draft State Energy Concept concentrates on energy security and on maintaining the Czech Republic as a net electricity exporter, through a diversified energy mix and a maximised use of indigenous resources, comprising coal, uranium and renewable energy.

“While the focus on energy security is praiseworthy,” IEA said, “energy policy could be further improved. Energy policy should be better integrated with climate change considerations. At the same time, economic efficiency should be another key pillar of energy policy.”

IEA added: “To improve its energy security while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing economic development, the Czech Republic could take measures to: improve energy efficiency and broaden demand-side measures; focus on low-carbon technologies; integrate electricity and natural gas markets regionally; and optimise needed new infrastructure.” [IDN-InDepthNews – November 9, 2012]

2012 IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters

Picture: Temelín Nuclear Power Station | Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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