The Czech government on July 8 gave preliminary approval for Elektrárna Dukovany II, a subsidiary of utility ČEZ, to build at least one new nuclear power unit in the country, along with as many as three more at existing nuclear power plants at Dukovany and Temelín.

The country’s Ministry of Industry and Trade made the announcement in a resolution published Monday. The Czech Republic first discussed building additional units when the country’s cabinet approved a new state energy policy in 2015, at which time it recommended that ČEZ, which owns and operates the nuclear plants at Dukovany and Temelín, should create a subsidiary company to research building and financing new reactors.

The government in its resolution published Monday said it would provide the utility with loan guarantees to help secure financing for any new reactors. ČEZ is 70% owned by the Czech government.

Construction Still Years Away

Reports said construction of any new units is years away, though equipment and technology suppliers could be chosen within the next five years. Expectations are that at least one 1,200-MW reactor would be built at Dukovany by 2035 to replace four existing units that are scheduled to be shut down between 2035 and 2037. New capacity at Temelín would be built at a later date.

The resolution published Monday says, in part: “The investor of the construction will be Elektrárna Dukovany II, which is a 100% subsidiary of ČEZ. A contract will be concluded between the state and the ČEZ Group that will enable the company to obtain credit for the construction of new nuclear sources under the same conditions as if the state were borrowing the money. The state will also guarantee the stability of the legislative and regulatory environments and possible compensation for change. The state will not provide a return guarantee for a contract-for-difference (CfD) as it did the UK [government] for Hinkley Point. The investor model chosen is the basis for negotiations with the European Commission.”

The document also said new nuclear units are needed to help the Czech Republic meet emissions reduction targets and goals for energy security. “Ministers perceive the construction of new nuclear sources as a precondition for ensuring secure supplies of electricity and energy self-sufficiency in the Czech Republic,” the paper notes. “Construction is an integral part of the basic security interests of states, where nuclear power plants are among the critical infrastructures in accordance with current legislation. As part of the preparation and implementation of the project for new nuclear sources, the selected investor model will provide for the basic security interests of the state.”

The resolution also said: “It is of course environmentally friendly [policy], because new nuclear power plants will be a low-emission, stable source of electricity and heat. The construction contributes to the fulfilment of the State Energy Policy, which envisages increasing the share of nuclear energy in electricity production from the current 30% to 46% and then to 58%. There will be a gradual reduction in coal combustion, with regard to ecological protection and the depletion of mineral resources.”

‘Steps to Prepare for New Capacity’

Czech Republic Minister of Industry and Trade Karel Havlicek, speaking at a press conference in Prague after a cabinet meeting Monday, said, “[the government is] moving from the stage of talking about constructing new nuclear capacity to taking specific steps to prepare for new capacity.” Havlicek said the government would look for the utility to assume the business risks of the new reactors.

The government on Monday approved a budget for the ministry to prepare for nuclear plant construction, including an advisory board to Jaroslav Míl, the country’s special envoy for nuclear energy. The board, which includes five Czech experts in nuclear power and power plant construction, will advise Míl through 2022.

The Czech government’s action comes as neighboring Poland continues preparing to build its first nuclear plant in the Pomerania region of that country. Energy Minister Krzysztof Tchórzewski recently told Polish media that the government plans to build a nuclear power plant by 2033, saying the government has “societal approval” to build a plant. He told Polish Radio: “A nuclear power plant is a more expensive power plant under construction, especially when it comes to security, but it is much cheaper to operate” when compared to a coal-fired plant.

Poland’s Ministry of Energy in a document published in November 2018 said the country is planning for 6 to 9 GW of nuclear power generation capacity by 2043, which would account for about 10% of the country’s total electricity output. The ministry said it expects to choose a site for the first nuclear plant next year, with an in-service date of 2033, and as many as six reactors would be in service by 2043.

Darrell Proctor is a POWER associate editor (@DarrellProctor1, @POWERmagazine).