Reversal: Czechs to build new nuclear reactors

Monday, July 26, 2010

Prague - The Greens did not manage to pass the 5 percent threshold in the late May legislative elections, which means there is virtually no opposition in the Lower Chamber of the Czech Parliament against plans on nuclear energy build-ups in the Czech Republic.

This means that the center-right coalition can easily implement its nuclear energy program, which includes building new reactors in the Temelín nuclear plant and modernizing the Dukovany nuclear plant.

"We are going to support the nuclear program," Environment Minister Pavel Drobil from the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), the main government party, said when he was presenting his policy objectives. His pro-nuclear stance makes him an exact opposite of his predecessor in the minister's post, Martin Bursík from the Greens.

It was precisely the Green Party that, as a member of the coalition that ruled the Czech Republic in 2006-2009, forced the government of PM Mirek Topolánek (ODS) to declare that it would not build any new nuclear power plants.

Now, the coalition consisting of the ODS, conservative TOP 09 and centrist Public Affairs gives nuclear energy a green light. In addition, even the opposition left-wing parties, the Social Democrats and Communists, are in favor of the modernization of Temelín and Dukovany.

Czech energy giant ČEZ, which operates both nuclear plants, is thus one of the biggest winners of the late May legislative elections - they gave birth to a government friendly to its interests.

However, ČEZ will have to make its peace with the fact that the expansion of Temelín will be closely observed by the government's deputy for energy security Václav Bartuška, appointed by the previous caretaker government of PM Jiří Fischer (2009-2010).

In two years, ČEZ wants to select the main contractor and start the construction of the new blocks of the Temelín plant.

ČEZ argues that the energy produced by Temelín will compensate for the gradual downgrade of the brown-coal power plants.

Global trend
The expansion of Temelín is in accord with the global trend that favors nuclear energy. Or, at least according to the Nuclear Energy Technology Roadmap study published by the International Energy Agency and OECD Nuclear Energy Agency.

The study, quoted by President of Czech Nuclear Society Václav Hanus, estimates that in 40 years, the global nuclear energy production will triplicate.

"Nuclear energy is the strongest and most successful advantage in efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions," said Hanus, quoting the study.

"Nuclear pig in a poke"
On the other hand, the environmentalist organizations Calla and Hnutí Duha (Rainbow Movement) call the expansion of Temelín a "nuclear pig in a poke". They argue there is no independent economic study that would compare the reconstruction plan with a project of savings and renewable resources utilization.

"The cost of a reactor in Olkiluoto, Finland, increased from three to 5.3 billion euro, the costs of a project being prepared in Belene, Bulgaria, increased in a similar manner from 2.5 to nine billion euro," the organizations warned.

The organizations also reminded that the construction of the first two reactors of Temelín in the 1990s was much more expensive than anticipated. When the first bloc was finally launched 10 years ago, the total costs equaled CZK 100 billion (EUR 4 billion).

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