Czech policy draft proposes big nuclear expansion

Reuters , Thursday 8 Sep 2011

A Czech draft policy paper proposes to build a string of new atomic plants in the central European country, in contrast to a large pull-back from nuclear power following the Fukushima disaster in March

A Czech draft policy paper as seen by Reuters from the Industry Ministry said the country, an exporter of electricity to neighbouring Germany which announced a complete retreat from nuclear power after the March disaster in Japan, should boost reliance on nuclear to 80 percent of all energy needs by 2060.

The Czechs have six nuclear reactors and have opened a tender for two more. Officials have sounded concern over possible political pressure from Germany against the project.

Opposition is also expected from fiercely anti-nuclear Austria, whose border lies some 50 km (30 miles) from the biggest Czech nuclear plant at Temelin where the first new units are to be built by 2025.

Industry and trade Minister Martin Kocourek told Reuters that nuclear power was indispensable as a cheap energy source and renewable power would not be sufficient.

"Part of the European Union is going in a different direction, because they probably do not care about competitiveness," he said.

"We are not saying these plants will start working tomorrow."

CEZ , central Europe's largest utility, produces more than 70 percent of Czech power and is the sole operator of nuclear plants, which contribute a third of total electricity production in the nation of 10.5 million.

The Industry Ministry draft, obtained by Reuters, takes into account three scenarios of future developments.

The most extreme scenario that sees higher consumption to meet a high rise in electricity use counts on boosting installed nuclear capacity to as much as 18.69 gigawatt by 2060 from a current 3.78 GW.

In the other two scenarios, nuclear capacity would grow to 13.89 gigawatts with expected domestic consumption rising to around 80 terrawatt hours from the current 49 TWh.

In June, Germany's cabinet backed a far-reaching energy strategy to reverse longer life cycles granted to nuclear power stations and to look more toward renewables for future power supply.

The Czech ministry's draft plan relies on the nuclear power plants at Temelin -- near the Austrian border -- and Dukovany operating until 2062 and 2045, respectively, with new plants coming on line over the coming decades at three different sites.

The majority state-owned CEZ plans to build two additional units at Temelin and then potentially up to three other units in Slovakia and at Dukovany.

Toshiba Corp unit Westinghouse, an alliance of Russia's Atomstroyexport and Czech company Skoda JS, and France's Areva , are bidding to build the units in the biggest-ever Czech procurement deal.  

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