Magazine: final decision on Temelín to be delayed by at least one year

Temelín nuclear plant, photo: Filip Jandourek, ČRo

A report in the weekly news magazine Euro suggests the Czech power giant ČEZ intends to delay a final decision on whether to expand the Temelín nuclear plant by at least 12 months. ČEZ is due to announce a winner for the multi-billion dollar tender this autumn; a ČEZ official quoted in the magazine now says that even if a winner is chosen this year, the final contract may not be signed until the autumn of 2014.

Temelín nuclear plant,  photo: Filip Jandourek,  ČRo
A decision to double capacity at the Temelín nuclear plant in South Bohemia would be the most momentous investment in the Czech Republic’s 20 year history. Building two more pressurized water reactors at Temelín will cost anywhere between 10 to 15 billion dollars, a financial decision likely to have far-reaching consequences for years to come.

The entity that must make that decision – the state-controlled power utility ČEZ – had been expected to announce this autumn whether the tender would go to the Russian-Czech joint venture MIR 1200 or the U.S. firm Westinghouse Electric, which is part of Japan’s Toshiba Group. Or – as Czech officials have consistently reminded journalists – ČEZ still reserves the right to announce a new tender or even abandon the tender process altogether and postpone the expansion of Temelín indefinitely. It now seems likely that no final decision will be taken on any of those four options until next autumn at the earliest.

Pavel Cyrani,  photo: ČEZ
Pavel Cyrani, director of ČEZ’s Strategy Division, told Euro Magazine that the decision to invest billions of dollars in expanding Temelín could be broken down into three distinct and separate processes. First, he said, was the matter of choosing whom to award the tender, which was completely in ČEZ’s hands.

But the decision whether or not to go ahead with expansion, he said, depended on two factors beyond the company’s control. First was the approval of the long-term national energy strategy, which is still being discussed by the government and parliament. That will lay down the country’s future energy mix – how much nuclear, fossil fuels and renewables etc. The plan should, said Mr Cyrani, be approved by the end of this year.

The third – and crucial – factor, he said, was a firm commitment on how the Czech Republic planned to finance its nuclear investment, for example fixing prices for electricity generated at the two new reactors for a period of 30 years. That debate, he said, was still far from over. Certainly it seems unlikely a final decision to expand Temelín will be taken before the next elections – whether regular polls in May 2014 or early elections, if they are held, before then.

Dukovany nuclear plant,  photo: Michal Malý,  ČRo
ČEZ, which is 70% owned by the Czech state, operates two nuclear plants, at Dukovany and Temelín. The older Dukovany facility has four reactors online, whilst Temelín currently has two. Together they provide some 32% of the country’s electricity; the rest is mostly generated by burning fossil fuels such as coal. Hydroelectric and renewable energy make a marginal contribution to Czech energy production.