Environmental approval for new Czech reactors

23 January 2013

The construction of two more units at the existing Temelin nuclear power plant site will not have a significant environmental impact, the Czech Republic's ministry of environment has concluded.

In July 2008, Czech utility CEZ requested that the Ministry of the Environment conduct an environmental impact assessment (EIA) of two additional reactors at Temelin. It submitted the documents needed by the ministry to conduct that assessment in June 2010, although it has yet decide which reactor model will be used.

The ministry of environment announced that it has now completed its assessment of the EIA for the project, noting that it had been "one of the most demanding and professionally complicated EIA processes in its history."

The EIA covers the construction of two generic third-generation pressurized water reactors, each with a capacity of up to 1700 MWe. It also considers the addition of power lines to the Kocin distribution point and the potential increase in the supply of water to the plant from the Hnevkovice pumping station.

Strategic investment

Czech industry minister Martin Kuba stressed the importance of the new Temelin units to the country in an interview with Reuters.

Despite low wholesale power prices and uncertainty about future demand, he said, "I consider investment in Temelin to be an investment into family silver. You cannot always consider such investment only according to current market prices for electricity."

Kuba said that the Czech government is considering allowing power prices from the two new units to be set by a so-called "contract for difference," similar to the UK's approach for its new reactors.

"The Czech Republic must be tough in defending this project and defend the concept of sustainable energy for reasonable prices," he said.

The ministry's assessment of the EIA stipulates 90 conditions which must be met to ensure that the new units meet necessary environmental protection and public health requirements. It said that it was essential that regular consideration is given to any new legal requirements, including further recommendations and international practice in the field of nuclear energy, radiation protection and emergency preparations. This condition, it stated, "ensures that future design preparation of the project will reflect current developments in the area of nuclear energy without relation to the contractor."

The ministry noted that the EIA process was accompanied by substantial participation by non-governmental organizations and the public. In addition to the mandatory public hearings in the Czech Republic, public discussions were held in neighbouring Germany and Austria. More than 60,000 opinions were submitted, the "vast majority consisted in fears connected with the operation of nuclear power sources." All the received opinions were included in the basic documents for the EIA statement.

"During the entire EIA process, thousands of pages of expert studies were prepared, together with analyses, expert reports and other documents, with participation by dozens of experts from the Czech Republic and abroad," the ministry said.

The ministry's EIA statement is not a decision on whether the project should or should not be implemented, but must be used by regional and national authorities when issuing decisions or licences related to the project.

CEZ launched the tender process for the new Temelin units in August 2009 and invited three candidates - Areva; a consortium between Škoda JS, AtomStroyExport and OKB Gidropress; and Westinghouse - in November 2011 to submit bids. All three contenders submitted documentation supporting their respective bids in late June 2012. However, in October, CEZ told Areva that its bid had been disqualified. Areva subsequently lodged a petition with the Czech anti-monopoly office. CEZ expects to select the reactor supplier and sign the construction contract by the end of 2013. The units are scheduled to begin operating in 2023 and 2024.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News