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Low on coal, high in carbon, Czech Republic sees nuclear answer

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MOSCOW – Nuclear energy is important for the Czech Republic’s energy security and reducing CO2 emissions, Deputy Industry Minister Pavel Solc told New Europe. “It’s energy security and decarbonization. In our climate conditions there’s no way how to decarbonize without nuclear because we have to move out of coal for two reasons: first is carbon emissions and second is that our reserves are depleting,” Solc said on June 1 on the sidelines of the VII Atomexpo conference and exhibition in Moscow, hosted by Rosatom and its director general, Sergey Kirienko.

On June 3, the Czech government approved its nuclear energy strategy that foresees the construction of one nuclear bloc at Dukovany and one at Temelin, with an option to build two blocs at each location. The decision was highly anticipated. “This Wednesday [June 3] the government will decide on the detailed plans and probably soon after the main utility will start to prepare a separation of assets to the daughter companies which will allow the different arrangements and probably the end of this year the talks with potential partners will start,” Solc said on June 1 in Moscow.

“The priority is on Dukovany due to the fact that there is a plant that will be decommissioned in the period 2035-37 at latest and we have to keep the operation of the nuclear site active so it means that it should be in operation new unit before 2035,” Solc said.

Taking into account the entire permit-granting procedures and discussions with the Czech Republic’s neighbours, it seems that now the country should start to give priority to the Dukovany site because at Temelin there is already existing an environmental impact assessment study so some steps were already done, Solc said.

Czech Republic’s deputy industry minister noted there will be a selection of strategic partners. “It’s definitely not only about building a new plant; it’s about the cooperation in human resources development, in R&D and so on. It will be more complex issue,” Solc said, adding that potential partners include French, Korean, American-Japanese and Russian companies. “Russia is also one of the potential partners,” he said.

There was some frustration among venders with the Czech Republic because they participated in the first Temelin tender, investing a lot of money and time, and then Prague cancelled it. However, Solc said he hopes that there will be sufficient support and enthusiasm among investors for a new process. “We passed through a two-year consultation process of the energy strategy so today we have a government decision what is the role of nuclear and what are details,” he said, adding that there is a formal guarantee that the government supports nuclear.

Solc also noted that nuclear will help reduce reliance on natural gas imports. Nevertheless, he said that the Turkish Stream extension will have limited impact on the Czech Republic’s energy security. “According to the stress tests, we are able to rely on gas flows through the Nord Stream and Opal [pipelines] and currently we are taking steps to build North-South Corridor connecting our grid to the LNG terminal in Poland so this South Stream has no direct impact to Czech Republic – more to Hungary, of course, Bulgaria, Romania,” he said. “We’re almost on the safe side.”

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Co-founder / Director of Energy & Climate Policy and Security at NE Global Media

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