Temelin Nuclear Power Plant

The Temelin Nuclear Power Plant
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It is mostly because of disagreements with the Czech Republic's fiercely anti-nuclear neighbour Austria that the South Bohemian nuclear power plant Temelin is so often mentioned in the Czech media, including Radio Prague. For this week's Spotlight, I travelled to Temelin to see the site for myself and to speak to Milan Musak, the plant's Communication Department Head.

"The Temelin Nuclear Power Plant is located about 25 kilometres north of Ceske Budejovice, the regional capital of South Bohemia and 5 kilometres south of the small town of Tyn nad Vltavou. The site is approximately 55 km from the Czech-Austrian border.

"The site for our nuclear power plant was chosen in the first half of the eighties based on a detailed survey taking into account all necessary site conditions. These conditions are prescribed by Czech nuclear legislation and cover for example geological, seismic, hydrological and other important criteria for the appropriate site selection."

The Temelin Nuclear Power Plant
Temelin is one of two Czech Republic's nuclear power stations. Operated by the energy company CEZ, it is the single biggest power source in the country. In 2006, Temelin produced 12 billion kWh of electricity - enough to cover the consumption of all Czech households for 10 months. The "factory", as it is affectionately called by the staff, is a real landmark in the region. Its cooling towers are visible from afar, the white vapour fusing with clouds. The site spans across an area where several former settlements had to give way to the construction.

"The site is pretty large, it has 125 hectares. One reason for this large area is that initially the site was supposed to have 4 units, but only two of them have been built up to now."

The Temelin plant went into commercial operation in 2002-2003 but its history is much older...

The Temelin Nuclear Power Plant
"The power plant received its building permission in the year 1986, the construction itself started in the year 1987. The original plan was to build a plant with four units. After the political changes in the former Czechoslovakia one of the first decisions of the new government in the year 1990 was to stop the construction of the third and fourth units. Then until the year 1993 the construction stagnated and only after the splitting of Czechoslovakia the first Czech government decided to complete the first and second units.

"There was a tender announced for the supplier, which was won by the American company Westinghouse. To increase the safety and reliability the whole project was changed and redesigned. It took a certain amount of time and so the first unit was put into operation at the end of the year 2000. The first connection to the grid was in December 2000. It was followed by the trial operation period and in years 2002, respectively 2003 both units entered normal operation. Since the moment the power plant was connected to the grid it has already produced 62 TWh of electricity. To compare it with a production of the same amount of electricity in a classical coal power station one would have to burn about 62 million tons of coal and release a huge amount of emissions, especially the greenhouse gas CO2."

Milan Musak, photo: CTK
I asked Milan Musak about a few technical details, such as the type of reactors and fuel Temelin uses.

"The reactor used is the former Soviet or Russian VVER 1000, type V320. This is the third generation of these reactors, the same type as the western pressurized water reactors, equipped with full pressure containment. For example, the thickness of the containment wall is 1.2 metres. The design output of Temelin is twice 1000 MW. We use hexagonal type of fuel with enrichment up to five percent of Uranium 235. In the reactor core we have 163 fuel assemblies, each containing 312 fuel rods. The primary coolant pressure is 15.7 MPa and inlet temperature 290 degrees Celsius and outlet temperature 320 degrees Celsius. The reactor is controlled by 61 control rods called clusters. Each unit has for cooling purposes two 155 metres cooling towers."

It is precisely the fact that the power station was first built according to a Soviet design and later equipped with Western operating technology that opponents of the plant repeatedly criticise as a safety risk. Temelin has therefore been under close scrutiny, stipulated by an international agreement.

The Temelin Nuclear Power Plant
"Such as any other power plant with a pressurized water reactor also the Temelin Nuclear Power Plant is equipped with standard safety systems. Our plant has three independent safety systems. We call them ESFAS which means Engineered Safety Features Actuation Systems. Whereas one of them is enough for a safe shutdown and is able to cope with a maximum design accident. This means our plant has a double redundancy of safety systems. The reactor control system is in our case fully digitalized and also has a multiple redundancy.

"I'm afraid I can't talk about the anti-terrorism measures, which, I hope, you can understand. But I want to emphasise that nuclear power plants are protected extremely well from the security point of view."

The Information Center in Vysoky Hradek
Despite all the security measures, you can actually get quite close to the site to see the overwhelming cooling towers up close and even visit an information centre located in a small castle that was preserved on the site.

"We have a very nice Information Center, which is situated in an old castle near the power plant. Just last weekend we were celebrating 10 years since the opening of this Information Center at the reconstructed castle. This year already more than 20,000 visitors have visited it and I believe that by the end of this year we will be able to welcome more 25,000 visitors to the Information Center. About 5,000 visitors a year get the opportunity to visit the power plant itself, it means they are invited to see, for example, the turbine hall."

Even if you do not plan to see the area for yourself, you can follow what's going on at the plant on the company CEZ website.

The Temelin Nuclear Power Plant
"Detailed information about the Temelin Nuclear Power Plant in Czech, English and German languages is on our company website. There are apart from the general information daily published situations on both units. The Temelín Nuclear Power Plant informs about its operation in a very detailed and above standard way, no other power plant in the world does the same. The reason for this information is the so-called Melk agreement, which was signed between the Czech Republic and Austria. Under this agreement we have to inform about events that other power plants normally do not have to inform about. But that is another story."

Temelin has still not reached its full production capacity but plans to increase its production to the level of 15 TWh within the next five years. That annual output, the plant says, would cover the yearly consumption of all Czech households. This plan, called "Safely 15TERA", started on 1st July 2007. The plant hopes to maintain this level for at least the following 30 years.

More information at: www.cez.cz

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49.192301800000
14.351816500000