Radioactive Waste Depository Authority launches multi-million-crown incentive to win over municipalities for possible nuclear waste sites

Illustrative photo

While the Czech Republic relies on nuclear power for some 30 percent of its total energy supply, the Radioactive Waste Depository Authority is facing difficulties in finding new locations for depositing nuclear waste. As an incentive for municipalities to agree to geological research on their territory, the state-run authority is now offering mayors millions of crowns. Sarah Borufka has the details.

Illustrative photo
In an effort to convince municipalities to agree to research for deep geological nuclear waste repositories on their territory, the Czech Radioactive Waste Depository Authority has promised every town or city that participates a financial incentive of 600,000 Czech crowns annually. In addition, 30 hellers would be paid for each square meter that becomes part of the research area.

However, the offer is being met with resistance by some mayors, who fear that agreeing to research now may make them a likely candidate to become a nuclear waste storage site in the future. The deputy director of the Radioactive Waste Depository Authority, Jiří Slovák, says this is not the case.

“Accepting this incentive is not a commitment to becoming a future site of a deep geological depository. The money will be paid out to municipalities simply for participating in the geological research aimed at finding suitable locations. The research entails geophysical measurements, geochemical samples, and after we evaluate the data, we will drill exploratory boreholes. We expect to drill two to three 500-meter holes and another one to two with a depth of one kilometer.”

Jiří Slovák
Currently, the Czech Republic has three above-ground nuclear waste depositories: in Jáchymov, Dukovany, and near Litoměřice. While deep geological disposal has been studied for many decades, it is still only in the testing phase and a large part of the public remains skeptical.

Mayors argue that their hands are tied. Local referenda that were held across the country between 2000 and 2003 indicated that most citizens are opposed to living near a nuclear waste site. Mr. Slovák says that the situation has since changed and that his organization has publicly pledged geological research would not automatically force municipalities to become sites of radioactive waste storage.

However, local politicians are weary of the state’s unclear stance on nuclear power and the changing energy agenda, says the mayor of Dolní Cerekev in the Vysočina region, Zdeněk Jirsa.

“It is very simple. Before we can agree, we need to know what amount of nuclear waste would potentially be stored in our municipality, and then we can decide whether further discussions are possible. Martin Kocourek, the former minister of industry and trade, said that 18 new reactors would be built by 2060; the new minister is saying something that is diametrically opposed to this: two reactors in Temelín and one in Dukovany. As long as the state does not tell us the exact parameters of what we are talking about, we will find it hard to believe that the government is giving us reliable guarantees or promises.”

For now, the Radioactive Waste Depository Authority says it will continue discussions with mayors who have turned the offer down. To date, seven municipalities have given research the green light.