Czech power giant bolsters arguments for 60 year lifespan of nuclear plants

Temelín nuclear power plant, photo: Filip Jandourek

Czech power giant ČEZ says there’s no reason why its Temelín nuclear reactor can’t operate for 60 years or more. That’s one way to deal with the problems being faced building new nuclear reactors but it’s likely to raise hackles in some neighbouring countries.

Temelín nuclear power plant,  photo: Filip Jandourek
ČEZ publicised its study saying there are no fundamental safety or technical obstacles to the country’s biggest single power plant operating for 60 years. Deputy board chairman and finance director Martin Novák commented on the findings:

ʺWe have undertaken a technical and economic study of the long-term operations of the Temelín nuclear power plant past 2060. The study confirmed that it is technically feasible to operate our power plant until 2062.ʺ

In fact, the study specifically gave the all clear for the first unit operating until 2060 and the younger second unit continuing two years after that. And it added Thursday that there are no reasons why the units can’t keep producing power longer.

The study comes against the backdrop of a real breakthrough still being sought on whether the Czech Republic will build a new generation of reactors at its existing Temelín and Dukovany sites. Experts appointed by the Ministry of Industry and Trade should recommend the best options to push ahead with those plans, including how to finance the hundreds of billions of crowns needed, next week.

A previous tender to double the size of Temelín with two new reactors was scrapped in 2014 when the Czech government refused to guarantee the financial underpinning for the massive project. And there are now warnings that the government target to get new reactors in place by 2035 is in danger of not being realised because of delays taking key decisions.

That danger was one of the issues under the spotlight in the Czech capital on Friday during a conference organised by the Czech Senate into how far the country’s plans to safeguard and develop domestic nuclear know-how and capacity are being met.

Photo: Miloš Turek
Making existing reactors operate much longer than their planned operating span is one way to address what some forecasts see as a looming power crisis in the Czech Republic and Central Europe as many coal-fired plants are forced to close.

But that puts Prague on a possible collision course with anti-nuclear neighbour Austria and a growing number of EU countries which have or are turning away from nuclear power and seeking tough tests for extending the life of existing plants.

Temelín, around 40 kilometres from Austria, is a sensitive subject in the country especially after the reactor faced a series of significant problems during its first years of operation.

Earlier this year the head of the Czech nuclear watchdog, the State Office for Nuclear Safety, warned of exactly this scenario of growing opposition to nuclear power plant operational extensions. Dana Drábová cautioned that whatever the technical and safety merits of the ageing Czech nuclear plants, local politicians would likely face an EU battle to extend their operating lifetime.