Czech Republic Expanding Nuclear Power Program

The Czech Republic is looking to expand its use of nuclear power, with utility CEZ launching another tender looking for companies to bid on construction of new reactors and generators at the country’s two existing nuclear power stations. The tenders come as a new research reactor, designed as a teaching tool for nuclear engineering students, has entered service in the country. The VR-2 research reactor was built in about a year, and comes online just less than a decade after the project was launched in 2014 by the Faculty of Nuclear Sciences and Physical Engineering (FNSPE) at the Czech Technical University (CTU) in Prague. CTU said the VR-2 reactor is located “in the same reactor hall as the VR-1,” a lightwater, zero-power research reactor using enriched uranium that has operated since 1990.

CEZ in May of this year launched a tender to add two generators to the Temelin Nuclear Power Station, a 2,056-MW facility with two VVER-1000 units designed by Russia’s Gidropress. The units came online in 2000 and 2002. CEZ said its wants construction of the new generators at Temelin, representing an investment of about $160 million, to take place between 2028 and 2030. CEZ in March 2022 announced a tender seeking companies to bid on a one-unit expansion of the Dukovany nuclear power plant. The utility late last year said three groups—France’s EDF, South Korea’s KHNP, and Westinghouse Electric—made the initial bids to construct a new reactor at Dukovany, and it expects the bidding process will conclude by September of this year. Officials said companies from China and Russia were excluded from the bidding due to security concerns. The Czech Republic has made a series of moves to distance itself from Russia after the latter’s invasion of Ukraine.

1. The Dukovany nuclear power plant in the Czech Republic has four VVER-400 pressurized-water reactors that were put into operation between 1985 and 1987. Officials want to add another 1,200-MW reactor at the site. Courtesy: CEZ 

The 2,040-MW Dukovany plant (Figure 1) has four VVER-400 pressurized-water reactors that were put into operation between 1985 and 1987. The plant’s original installed capacity was 1,760 MW, and Dukovany has increased its power output through a series of turbine upgrades, efficiency programs, and other technical improvements over the past several years. CEZ officials have said the plant’s current units are expected to operate until at least 2037, with a possible extension to 2047.

“We expect the [construction] contracts [for the new reactor] to be finalized in 2024,” CEZ board member Tomas Pleskac said in a recent statement. Officials said the new 1,200-MW unit at Dukovany should be ready to come online in 2036. The project to build a new reactor represents an investment of €6 billion ($6.4 billion), which officials said is the largest investment in the modern history of the Czech Republic.

The Czech Republic receives about 36% of its electricity supply from the reactors at Temelin and Dukovany, according to government data. CEZ has said it wants to modernize the Temelin plant as it has Dukovany, and would like for Temelin to operate for at least another 60 years. Bohdan Zronek, director of CEZ’s nuclear energy division, said the company wants to choose the contractor for the two-generator Temelin project no later than the first quarter of 2024.

A team from Westinghouse and Bechtel in March of this year hosted an event for representatives from 55 Czech companies to discuss opportunities to support expansion of the Czech Republic’s nuclear power program. “The Czech Republic has committed to meeting increasing electricity demands while reducing carbon emissions and reliance on coal and other fossil fuels,” said Ahmet Tokpinar, general manager of Bechtel’s Nuclear Power business line, at that meeting. “The time is now to begin engagement with potential suppliers in the Czech Republic and we look forward to building lasting partnerships.”

A Westinghouse-Bechtel team in November 2022 submitted a proposal to build a Westinghouse AP1000 unit at Dukovany, should Westinghouse be chosen for that expansion project, and said there also were discussions about adding two units at Temelin. CEZ on March 27 of this year signed a deal with Westinghouse to supply nuclear fuel for the Dukovany plant, as Czech officials look to end a reliance on Russia’s TVEL for fuel. CEZ officials said Westinghouse would begin fuel deliveries next year. CEZ in 2022 selected Westinghouse and France’s Framatome to supply fuel for the Temelin plant.

Officials said the VR-2 research reactor at CTU also will provide a boost to the country’s nuclear power expansion, as it offers several experimental and training opportunities. Officials estimated the cost of the project at about $360,000. “With the new VR-2 fission reactor, teaching and research activities will be easier to schedule, because with the VR-1 we have been facing capacity limits,” said Václav Cuba, an FNSPE dean. “VR-1 serves not only students from our home faculty but also students from other faculties at CTU and other universities. It is open to train foreign students and even staff from industry.”

CTU officials said VR-2 is the 10th nuclear reactor operating in the Czech Republic—the two VR training reactors, the six reactors operating at Dukovany and Temelin, and another two research reactors at the Research Centre in Rez.

Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).

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