Head of government energy commission: Share of nuclear power in Czech Republic’s energy mix should grow to about 50 percent

Temelín nuclear power plant

Václav Pačes, the head of a government-appointed energy commission, has presented his suggestions for the future energy policy of the Czech Republic. Among them is an increase in the share of nuclear power in the country’s energy mix of to up to 50 percent over the next few decades. We spoke to Chris Johnstone, who has been covering the Czech energy market extensively for many years, about the significance of Mr Pačes’s proposals, the future of nuclear power and some of the challenges that lie ahead.

“The big challenge that Mr Pačes is looking at is what should be the energy mix for the Czech Republic over the next 30 and some say going towards 50 years. So he basically has to determine whether the country should rely more on nuclear energy, coal, which has been one of the main power sources for the Czech Republic over the last decades, renewables or import gas. These are the main challenges that Mr Pačes and the Czech Republic as well are looking at.”

So the suggestions he made this week – was there anything that had not been discussed in this shape and form before?

Václav Pačes
“Pačes believes that nuclear should provide about half of the country’s power needs, at the moment it is about a third. So he is suggesting, it seems, that the country’s biggest power company ČEZ should build two new nuclear plants at Temelín, which is what they are planning to do, and probably another one at Dukovany as well. On renewables, he has the position that the country is not really equipped to have much more renewable power, which is what most people in the ministry believe as well. And in terms of gas, he has said that there is room for more imports and gas-fired power stations in the Czech Republic.

“The big issue that he hasn’t really dealt with is coal, the question of whether the current company should be allowed to mine in areas where they have not been able to mine due to environment restrictions that have been in force since the early 1990s. There, Mr Pačes has dodged the question and said that a special commission should look into this. Basically, this question has been thrown around for the last decade, because some believe that the country is running out of coal. But the current ministry line seems to be that the restrictions could be maintained and that the real question that should be answered is the fact that a lot of these coal-fired plants are not very efficient.”

Chris Johnstone
Going back to what you said about nuclear power, in the wake of Fukushima, many countries, first and foremost Germany, decided to phase out nuclear energy rather than increase the amount of power from that source. What are some of the factors in the Czechs’ positive attitude towards nuclear power?

“The Czechs do not have many hang-ups about nuclear power. They have had nuclear power for about 50 years. They have not had any major accidents. They have the technology and expertise in the area. So the general public feels generally very safe with it. Whether that is good nor not is another question, but that is the situation at the moment.”