The head of the Czech nuclear watchdog has warned of pressure to close the country’s oldest nuclear reactors early. That would effectively blow a massive hole in the country’s energy strategy and timeframe for getting new replacement reactors built in time.
The head of the State Office for Nuclear Safety, Dana Drábová, gave this rather blunt warning at a Prague energy conference this week attended by most of the country’s top energy executives and the Minister for Industry and Trade:
ʺThere is immense pressure developing that the operating life of nuclear reactors will be limited to 40 years. That means that our political representatives – whoever they might be - sometime around 2023 will face a battle over a further 10 year extension for Dukovany. The current State Energy Framework counts on the lifetime of the Dukovany reactors ending sometime between 2030 and 2040.ʺ
While Drábová did not immediately explain where the pressure is coming from she later elaborated on her fears when interviewed on Czech Radio:
ʺThere are member states which are showing a desire to go down this road. These are of course the 14 countries which are not using nuclear power and some of which regard it as something ugly. In this case we might see, let’s say, a willingness to get rid of these nuclear plants in Europe as fast as possible.ʺ
The head of the Czech nuclear watchdog said there have already been examples in Europe where nuclear reactors have been forced to close because of what were basically political reasons. She gave the example of two reactors at Slovakia’s Jaslovské Bohunice plant which were forced to close as a condition for the country joining the European Union.
The Czech government and the state-dominated power company and nuclear operator ČEZ are counting on the four Dukovany reactors - which began operation from 1985 to 1987 – operating for at least 50 years and being phased out from around 2035.
This, it’s argued, would safeguard Czech nuclear know-how in the area and cover some of the shortfall in electricity production resulting from the closure of the Soviet-era designed reactors. With the timeline for getting even one new reactor built and running by 2035 already regarded as extremely tight, the possibility of bringing that target forward by around 1o years would be impossible.
Drábová also pointed out another problem: without new nuclear reactors and some of the older ones operating, Czech plans to curb greenhouse gas emissions in line with European Union climate change plans will also be blown apart. Czechs are counting on nuclear power plants in the long term providing around half of the country’s electricity, up from around a third now, as many of the country’s older coal-fired plants are also phased out.