IEA urges decision on Czech nuclear power expansion

16 December 2016

The Czech Republic needs to decide on the mechanisms for financing the construction and operation of new nuclear power plants "as soon as possible", the executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA) said this week.

Speaking at the launch in Prague of the Energy Policies of IEA Countries: Czech Republic 2016 Review on 13 December, Fatih Birol noted that nuclear is "one of the major pillars" of the State Energy Policy (SEP). Adopted in 2015, the SEP targets the expansion of Czech nuclear energy capacity in order to strengthen energy independence and security of supply.

The Czech Republic has six nuclear units at two sites with an installed capacity of 3924 MWe and electricity generation of 26.8 TWh, which is up 8.5% since 2005. Nuclear accounts for 32.5% of the country's electricity generation.

Four recommendations

The report by the Paris-based IEA makes four recommendations on nuclear policy to the Czech government: to work with utility ČEZ to ensure that all nuclear power plant operating licences are renewed well before their expiration so that electricity system planning can proceed; determine mechanisms of government support for the construction and operation of new nuclear power plants; choose a specific technology by 2020 so that permits can be approved by 2025, and construction can be completed before 2035; "minimise the burdens" of used nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste on future generations "in all ways possible, given that a repository might not be available by 2065"; determine, with ČEZ, how each type of decommissioning waste will be managed, as well as update their decontamination and decommissioning cost estimates based on these inventories and waste management strategies.

The SEP anticipates one new unit at the existing Dukovany nuclear site and possibly three more at Dukovany and Temelín. According to the IEA report, this process should involve a detailed analysis of the roles of the government and nuclear plant operators.

"Nuclear is expected to become the main source of electricity production with its share rising from present level, 32.5% in 2014, to between 46% and 58% in 2040."

International Energy Agency

Nuclear energy plays an important role in the nation's energy mix, the report noted, and to ensure security of supply and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and solid pollutants, the Czech government envisages the construction of additional reactors. ČEZ will build new nuclear facilities at Temelín and launched, in August 2009, a public tender to select a contractor for the construction of two nuclear units of advanced pressurised-water designs, it added. The development of additional nuclear facilities will, in the first place, be aimed at replacing thermal power plants at the end of their licensed operating periods, it said.

Coal is the dominant energy source in the Czech Republic, representing 39.2% of total primary energy supply, but since 2005 energy produced from coal has decreased by 21.1% from 20.2 Mtoe.

"The SEP favours reducing GHG emissions ... which taken together with restrictions on brown coal mining resulting from territorial ecological limits means that coal's position as the backbone of the power system will be gradually replaced by nuclear," it said.

Nuclear energy accounted for 7 Mtoe or 17.2% of total primary energy supply (TPES) in 2015. This represents a moderate increase since 2005 from 6.5 Mtoe, following a surge in 2003 when the 2000 MWe Temelín nuclear power plant was commissioned, the report noted. By 2040, the government projects that the share of nuclear energy in TPES will reach between 25% and 33%. This is supported by the National Action Plan for the Development of Nuclear Energy (NAP NE) approved in June 2015, which ensures the future development of nuclear energy "by preserving competencies and technologies", it added.

"[The NAP NE] involves preparations for the siting and construction of one unit at each nuclear power plant site, with the possibility of the construction of two units at each site in anticipation of the closure of currently operating units in Dukovany within two decades. In January 2016, the government also initiated a new committee led by the Minister of Industry and Trade to co-ordinate the development of nuclear power in the country. The committee will be responsible for the co-ordination of new construction, the supply chain, wastes and legislation to move the nuclear sector forward," the report said.

"Nuclear is expected to become the main source of electricity production with its share rising from present level, 32.5% in 2014, to between 46% and 58% in 2040," it added.

Compared with other IEA member countries, the Czech Republic is "around the median level" with regard to the share of fossil fuels in TPES at 76%. The share of coal ranks third-highest after Estonia and Poland, and oil and natural gas rank "relatively low". With respect to the share of nuclear, the Czech Republic is the seventh-highest among the 16 IEA members with nuclear energy in their energy mix, according to the report.

Capacity expansion

Nuclear power capacity in 2014 was 3924 MWe: Dukovany 1878 MWe and Temelín 2046 MWe. All Dukovany and Temelín units have undergone uprates in the past ten years, and further uprates are under consideration, the report noted.

The original capacity at Dukovany was 1760 MWe (four 440 MWe units). All four units were uprated to 456 MWe between 2005 and 2008 by replacing low-pressure turbines. Further uprates of units 3 and 4 were implemented from improved fuel, replacing the high-pressure turbine, refurbishing the generator, and instrumentation and control changes. Similar uprates of units 1 and 2 followed, all completed by the end of 2012, reaching 1878 MWe of capacity in total.

An upgrade of the Temelín units began in 2013, which resulted in an increase in the capacity of each block from 1000 MWe to 1023 MWe in 2015. The operating period of the four Dukovany units was extended by ten years, with the first closure due in 2025. ČEZ is reviewing plans to extend the lifetimes by an additional 20 years.

The Czech government publicly declared the country's intention to build two nuclear units - one in Temelín and one in Dukovany. New nuclear capacity of 2500 MWe is to be added by 2035, and more thereafter. The government sees that Dukovany 5 has priority over Temelín 3, the report said.

"There was much discussion about building new NPPs in the Czech Republic between 2010 and 2015. In March 2010, ČEZ announced that negotiations had begun with three candidate NPP providers: a consortium led by Westinghouse/Toshiba with the AP1000 plant design of 1140 MWe (net); a consortium led by Škoda/Atomstroyexport/Gidropress with the water-water energetic reactor VVER-1200 of 1078 MWe (net) with Russian financing; and Areva with the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) of 1650 MWe (net)," the report noted.

"Bids were formally invited by ČEZ in October 2011 for the supply of two nuclear power units on a 'turnkey basis, including nuclear fuel supply for nine years of operation'. Bids were submitted in July 2012, and the contract was to be signed in late 2013, but was then deferred to mid-2015 following completion of the SEP and the NAP NE," it added.

Implementation steps and roles of the Czech government were described as follows: regulation in the field of nuclear safety through the State Office for Nuclear Safety; ensuring a long-term sustainable infrastructure necessary for construction; the decommissioning of nuclear installations and the disposal of nuclear waste of all categories, both from nuclear power and from nuclear research, medicine and industry through the Radioactive Waste Repository Authority; and research in the field of nuclear power or learning and education primarily through the Nuclear Research Institute at Řež.

"The previous government was planning to create a contract-for-difference program for electricity from Temelín Units 3 and 4. This would cover the difference between market electricity prices and the cost of construction and operation. The Ministry of Industry and Trade (MIT) wanted this included in the SEP, but it was opposed by the Ministry of Finance, and the prime minister of the coalition government opposed any price guarantees," the report said.

"In April 2014, following government confirmation that it would not provide any price guarantees, ČEZ informed bidders that it had cancelled the procurement process in accordance with the public procurement law. The SEP anticipates one new unit (between 1200 MWe and 1700 MWe gross) at Dukovany, and possibly three more at the two sites. It recommends that ČEZ create a subsidiary company to prepare construction plans and explore options for financing the new build, even though the first might not be approved until 2025," it added.

There are three construction organisation options, the report noted. These are: plants would be built by ČEZ or a wholly owned subsidiary of ČEZ; plants would be built by international consortiums, with or without ČEZ participation; or the Czech ministries would form a state-owned enterprise to build the plants, then lease or sell them to ČEZ. To ensure local content, the government would prefer ČEZ as a favoured investor.

"Whoever builds the units, they must secure financing of approximately CZK 125-150 billion [$4.7-5.65 billion], with allowance for a second unit at each site," the report said. "The feasibility study for a new reactor at Dukovany is in progress, and ČEZ is preparing for an environmental assessment at the site. The NAP NE envisages that construction permits would be gained/approved before 2025."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News