Slovakia to call tender to expand nuke plant

Monday, January 21, 2008

BRATISLAVA, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Slovakia will open a tender this year to expand the Jaslovske Bohunice nuclear power plant, seeking to boost power capacity to meet demands of its growing economy, Economy Minister Lubomir Jahnatek said on Monday.

"We expect that the tender will be called this year," Jahnatek told reporters after meeting his Czech counterpart Martin Riman.

"The earliest date to build the fifth block is around 2020-2025 because we estimate that it will take us at least 3-5 years to assess the project," he said.

Jahnatek added the government was now analysing whether to choose two smaller 600 MW blocks or a single 1,100 MW block.

The ministry plans to submit a long-term energy strategy to outline Slovakia's future energy projects, including Bohunice, to the government in March or April.

The draft strategy released last autumn said that a new 1,200 MW block at the Bohunice site was worth an estimated 3 billion euros ($4.34 billion).

Jahnatek has said there are more than six interested parties in the new project, including Czech utility CEZ.

Analysts said RWE, EDF, Finland's Fortum or Russian RAO UES could also be on the ministry's list. E.ON has already confirmed interest.

Bohunice originally had four 440 MW units but one has been decommissioned and a second will shut down by the end of this year as part of Slovakia's EU accession agreement.

Slovakia has installed capacity of 2,200 MW in five reactor blocks of two plants -- mostly operated by a unit of Italy's Enel -- or 32 percent of total capacity.

Enel aims to complete the third and fourth 440 MW block at the second Slovak nuclear station -- Mochovce -- by 2013.

Jahnatek also said he expected to import 2-4 TWh of electricity a year from the Czech Republic in the coming years to compensate Slovakia's shrinking power generating capacity in the fast growing economy.

"Slovakia has a serious interest in the Czech Republic becoming its priority supplier of electric energy given that Slovakia will register a power deficit soon," he said. (Reporting by Martin Santa, writing by Martin Dokoupil, Editing by Peter Blackburn)

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