Consequences of German nuclear phase-out for Czech Republic still unclear, says energy expert

Temelín nuclear power plant

On Monday, the director of the International Energy Agency Nobuo Tanaka warned that by pressing ahead with its plan to phase out nuclear power, Germany was threatening European energy security. Meanwhile, the vice-president of the Czech Energy Regulatory Office, Blahoslav Němeček, has predicted an increase of energy prices in the Czech Republic by 3.6 to 6 percent next year, and cites developments in Germany as an important factor in determining the future cost of energy. I spoke about the issue with Václav Bartuška, the government’s appointee to keep tabs on the expansion of the Temelín nuclear power plants in Southern Bohemia and possibility of state power company CEZ ordering a further three reactors. He speaks on how a nuclear phase-out in Germany could affect the Czech Republic.

Protests against nuclear power plants in Berlin, Germany, March 2011, photo: CTK
“It is impossible at the moment to really say how the nuclear phase-out in Germany will play out in a broader European picture. I assume that it will be difficult, maybe even impossible, to replace the missing thousands of megawatts in capacity in a short time. At the same time, I don’t think that Germany wants to be, in the long-term, dependent on the imports of electricity even from France or the Czech Republic. So Germany will have to find a solution on its own soil.”

What is your take on yesterday’s statement by Nobuo Tanaka of the IEA that Germany should not do this on its own accord but take into account the whole region?

“We have been in contact with our German friends permanently and we have been saying the same thing, basically. The switch-out of the seven nuclear reactors shortly after Fukushima was not consulted with any of the neighbors in advance. That was not really a good step. At the same time, we fully respect that nuclear electricity is a sovereign issue of each member state of the EU, so we fully respect the Germans’ right to decide whether wants to leave it nuclear or not, we just would want to be more informed about future steps in advance, that’s all.”

In terms of the Czech expansion of Temelín and Czech nuclear plants, what kind of effect would a German nuclear phase-out on possible plans for that?

“No impact. Honestly, we are building Temelín III and IV for our own domestic needs, because we have to replace some of the coal-fire power stations with new sources, and we see nuclear as a reliable, long-term and relatively source of electricity, besides being clean. So there is no immediate impact on this. We don’t expect that our position of being able to export some electricity but not much would change. We definitely do not have the money for export.”

What other possibilities are there to fill this hole in the region that would be created by the German phase-out?

“Germany says it wants to build more renewables on its soil, as well as some gas-fired power stations and possibly also coal-fired, so we will see. But I would not use the word region, honestly. I think more and more what we get in Europe is really the responsibility of each member state for its own electricity balance. And the present picture where you have a growing number of member states having not enough electricity and being reliant on imports is simply not sustainable in the long term. So it’s not just Germany, it’s several other countries around us, which will have to face the reality that they will have to build new installations to keep up with the growing demand.”