President backs continued uranium mining but economic argument looks weak
Czech President Miloš Zeman has backed continued mining of uranium in the country after the existing mine shuts down in a few years. But although government ministers support the idea, the overall economic argument is looking weak amid low prices for nuclear fuel.
Now there is only one Czech mine still operating at the Rožná site in the centre of the country, and it is scheduled to shut down in 2017. It is the only European uranium mine still operating outside of Romania.
The Ministry of Industry and Trade is eyeing another site around 40 kilometres away at Brzkov where a mothballed mine could be put back into use. The first preliminary steps in that direction are being taken and they have contributed to a growing debate whether the Czech Republic should stick with uranium mining or buy abundant supplies on the world market.
The historical backdrop of Stráž pod Ralskem is not perhaps the most fortunate for a declaration of support for uranium mining. The area round the town was the scene of some of the most destructive uranium extraction in which sulphuric acid and water were pumped below ground to release reserves. A clean up of the polluted groundwater across almost 30 square kilometres in not expected to be completed until 2035 at an estimated total cost of up to 50 billion crowns. President Zeman stressed though that he did not support that sort of catastrophic chemical extraction.
Backers of continued uranium mining in the Czech Republic argue that there are strategic reasons to go on providing the basic raw material for nuclear power plants, although there currently a missing link in the fuel supply chain with the country lacking the facilities for producing fuel rods. These are at the moment made in Russia.