ČEZ CEO suggests new fuel tender should be held for Temelín reactors

Daniel Beneš, photo: Filip Jandourek

A multi-billion crown tender to supply Czech power company ČEZ with nuclear fuel for its two Temelin reactors looks like it is on the horizon. ČEZ’s general manager and board chairman Daniel Beneš raised the prospect that the current contract of Russian fuel supplier TVEL might not be automatically renewed in an interview this week with the Czech weekly Respekt.

Daniel Beneš, photo: Filip Jandourek
A new tender would have the advantage of drawing out the latest fuel technology offers from the main suppliers, worldwide these are probably TVEL, US-Based Westinghouse, and France’s Areva, and competitive bids on the price of the supplies, Beneš said.

While the head of near 70 percent state controlled ČEZ would not be drawn on when a tender could be staged, the precedent is clear that the competition would likely be held this year or next. TVEL won its current 10-year contract after ČEZ drew up the tender in 2004 and staged it in 2006. Supplies did not start being delivered until 2010 with the deal due to expire in 2020. Nuclear fuel supply is currently a big political issue with Westinghouse recently signed up to supply fuel for Ukraine’s Soviet designed reactors. With one eye on the danger of relying on Russian fuel deliveries, the European Union has recommended that countries operating nuclear power plants diversify their supplies and, especially where new nuclear plants are concerned, make efforts to ensure that they can be supplied by different fuel suppliers.

Czech Minister of Industry Jan Mládek has in the past though downplayed the danger of ČEZ, which also depends on TVEL for fuel deliveries to its four reactors at the Dukovany nuclear plant, relying too much on Russian nuclear fuel. Past drafts of a proposed new Czech energy policy have recommended ČEZ develop an at least three year stockpile of nuclear fuel to avoid the risk of a sudden break in supplies.

The proposed National Action Plan for the Development of Nuclear Energy in the Czech Republic authored by Mládek’s ministry and the Ministry of Finance pays passing attention to European urgings over diversification of fuel supply but puts much greater emphasis on long term fuel security.

The blueprint for nuclear development puts much greater emphasis on long term nuclear fuel security and offers four scenarios how this could be achieved. The options are: new long term agreements for sufficient volumes of fuel with suppliers; the development of a new nuclear fuel production facility in the Czech Republic; the creation of fuel stores for specific types of reactors; or the creation of stores of fuel components such as pellets and fuel rods. The plan should be debated and approved by the government within the next month.

Some in the nuclear industry have suggested that ČEZ might just be going through the motions in suggesting or even staging a new fuel tender and that it would prefer prolonging TVEL’s current contract which has contributed to Temelín’s relatively smooth running.