Czech industry ministry sparks uproar with long term power plans

The Czech Ministry of Industry has just made public its plans for the country’s energy policy over the next four decades. They include more nuclear power, the breaching of environmental barriers to mining brown coal, and expansion of uranium mining. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the plans have provoked howls of protests from environmental groups.

On Tuesday Industry Minister Vladímír Tošovský outlined his vision of how the Czech energy sector should evolve until 2050.

“Our strategy stems from the fact that we make maximum use of the energy sources at our disposition so that we can ensure secure supplies for everyone”

Vladimír Tošovský, photo: CTK
As Mr. Tošovský fleshed out his plans the outspoken reaction from environmentalists became obvious. The ministry wants an expansion of nuclear power so that it provides a quarter of Czech power needs by 2050 from the current 15 percent.

It also wants to breach 19 year old limits on mining brown coal in the already scarred region of northern Bohemia to get access to reserves of around 1.0 billion tonnes of coal. This would probably involve the destruction of local villages. And mining of hard coal could also be opened up in the protected Beskydy region in the far east of the country.

As well as that, the ministry calls for further mining of uranium — either at the current deep mine in the centre of the country or at sites in the north. That area is still suffering from the massive pollution problems caused by the chemical extraction of uranium under the former communist regime. This polluted the groundwater and has resulted in an ongoing clean-up costing billions of crowns.

Photo: European Commission
Environmentalists and the Environment Ministry have denounced the proposals as a shocking step back. Jan Rovenský is the energy expert for the Czech branch of Greenpeace.

“This new concept is really shocking and for us unacceptable. It really opens things which were taboo on the Czech political scene including the destruction of towns and villages for lignite mining; opening of new uranium mines, including chemical extraction and some other unbelievable things.”

But deputy minister for energy Tomáš Hüner challenges environmentalists to come up with other plausible scenarios than those based on more nuclear and coal from behind the existing mining limits.

“It is necessary to say if we do not change these limits, from which primary sources we will be producing heat and electricity in the Czech Republic”

The industry ministry wants its controversial proposal to kick-start a new debate and fast track decision about energy policy. It would like to see the current caretaker government either take a final decision on what direction the country should take over the next four decades or finalise a plan that can be accepted or rejected following elections in the middle of next year. But the environmentalists question whether the interim government has any right at all to prepare such far reaching decisions.