The country wants to reduce its carbon footprint while ensuring a steady and ample supply of electricity.
The Czech Republic, also known as Czechia, wants to reduce its carbon footprint while ensuring a steady and ample supply of electricity at the same time. The best way to do that, the country’s government believes, is to boost nuclear power capacity.
“We must be energy self-sufficient, while also addressing the [need for a] decline in coal and the European Union’s requirements for carbon neutrality,” says Karel Havlicek, who is the Central European nation’s minister of Industry, Trade and Transport.
Accordingly, plans are underway to replace the current ageing nuclear power plant in Dukovany, which started operating in the mid-1980s, with a new and modern plant. The current installation has four Soviet-era pressurized-water reactors, each with a capacity of 510 MW.
Last year the Czech government signaled its intention to construct at least one new nuclear power unit, scheduled for 2035, so as to replace the current units, which will likely be shut down between 2035 and 2037.
“According to (the state-controlled energy company) CEZ’s plan, at the end of the year, it will launch a tender for a new nuclear unit, with the supplier to be selected by the end of 2022,” a news agency has reported. “By 2024, contracts will be signed and further steps will be taken, such as securing a zoning permit.”
A third, or 34.5%, of domestically generated electricity comes from the country’s six current nuclear reactors, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. More than half (51%) of domestic electricity is derived from the burning of coal at ageing plants. The country, which has a population of slightly over 10 million, sees nuclear energy as a low-carbon alternative to coal.
Prague has said that it will persist with its plan for nuclear newbuild even in the face of opposition from the European Union. Two of the Czech Republic’s neighbors, Germany and Austria, are opposed to nuclear power on largely ideological grounds.
“We have to push it through, even if we were to breach European law,” Prime Minister Andrej Babis told EU officials last October. “Energy security is our priority and there is no way around it.”
The Czech Republic isn’t the only Central European nation that is turning to nuclear as a low-emissions source of plentiful energy. Hungary, which has a similarly sized population, is in the process of expanding its own existing nuclear power plant in Paks, south of Budapest.
The current four Soviet-era pressurized-water reactors, which were launched in the mid-1980s, provide a third of Hungary’s domestic power consumption. The Paks II power plant will house two units of 1,200 MW each in a €12.5 billion project, largely financed with a loan from Russia.
Nuclear energy “is of strategic importance in these difficult times,” János Süli, the minister responsible for the design, construction and commissioning of Hungary’s two new reactors, said earlier this month.
“Another important fact is that the nuclear power plant always has enough fuel for two years, as required by law,” Süli explained. “Nuclear fuel can be stored safely, in a small space and well stocked, and can be obtained from multiple sources when needed. This is much more secure than importing either electricity or natural gas.”