Government may postpone decision on building new nuclear reactors
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has confirmed that the government may put off a decision on how to fund new nuclear reactors for the power utility ČEZ by extending the lifespan of the Dukovany power plant by ten years. The news has brought a cautious response from ČEZ and criticism from the opposition benches.
However the country’s biggest expansion project –aimed at phasing out coal-burning plants and reducing carbon-dioxide emissions-has got stuck on the question of financing.
ČEZ has balked at starting a tender without receiving state guarantees for the massive investment while Prime Minister Babiš believes the power utility, which is 70 percent state owned, can handle the project by itself. However minority shareholders who are afraid that expenditures of that size would significantly impact dividend pay-outs are threatening lawsuits.
According to Industry Minister Marta Nováková buying them out is the most expensive option – and the least preferred, while the government still wants ČEZ to at least participate in financing the new reactors.
“The cost of a ten year extension for Dukovany would be 20 billion, while a new reactor would cost 200 billion, so we must carefully consider all the alternatives.”
ČEZ issued a statement saying that expanding Dukovany’s lifespan was a possibility but that much would depend on future regulatory and economic conditions.
The head of the State Institute for Nuclear Safety Dana Drábová was less convinced about the wisdom of procrastinating.
“The government is merely shelving the problem. Of course, there is the possibility that the energy sector will undergo such a radical transformation that a new reactor will not be needed. I would only welcome that. But no one can guarantee such a development.”
In an interview for Bloomberg this week Industry Minister Nováková said there was no question that nuclear power stations would remain part of the country’s energy-mix, since the Czech Republic couldn’t meet the set environmental targets without them. The question is not “whether” but “when, where and how many” reactors the country will need, she said.