New Czech plan: a nuclear power plant in every region

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What you will read in the analysis

  • The Czechia is now planning the construction of small nuclear reactors, which could be used as a source of energy in almost every region.
  • After 2030, the energy company ČEZ plans to build several small nuclear reactors.
  • At first, ČEZ wants to build on a large scale, mainly in northern Bohemia. Directly in the areas of gradually decommissioned coal-fired power plants.
  • It is a way to replace, in addition to the massive support of renewable sources, the gradually decommissioned coal-fired power plants, the old Dukovany and also the missing Russian gas.

Today, we know nuclear power plants as a large industrial complex, whose giant concrete cooling towers can be seen in the landscape from a distance of several tens of kilometers. It’s past. The Czechia is now planning the construction of small nuclear reactors, which could be used as a source of energy in almost every region.

It is a way to replace, in addition to the massive support of renewable sources, the gradually decommissioned coal-fired power plants, the old Dukovany and also the missing Russian gas. In addition to generating electricity, nuclear sources can also function as heating plants – heat is “waste” that you either use or release into the air.

The power engineers are therefore joking that it is a bit like the communist plans from the 1980s, which included a nuclear heating plant in every regional town. “In the end, it didn’t happen because the damn coal was just cheap. Today, the attractiveness of the core is growing, as we are ending up with coal and Russian gas, “says Dana Drábová, head of the State Office for Nuclear Safety.

First: The company South Bohemian nuclear park, a joint venture of ČEZ, ÚJV Řež (Institute of Nuclear Research) and the South Bohemian Region was established. Its goal is to test and start the first small reactor in the Temelín power plant complex by 2035 at the latest.

CEZ is now deciding between the American companies NuScale, GE Hitachi or Holtec, as well as the British Rolls-Royce, to whom it will offer a location in the “nuclear park”. The ambition is to get the Czechia among the first countries in Europe, which will launch a small, mass-produced reactor.

“They rely heavily on this technology in Poland or Romania, but our great advantage is a strong professional background. In addition, we are a country where there is a rare consensus on nuclear energy. It is supported by the majority of the public, as well as almost all political parties, “says the South Bohemian governor Martin Kuba (ODS), who worked hard for a pilot project in his region.

They are also very interested in a small reactor in the Moravian-Silesian and Ústí regions, where there is an energy-intensive industry. Representatives of these regions say that representatives of large companies looking for new energy sources – such as Třinecké železárny or Orlen Unipetrol – are even asking about the possibility of participating in an investment in a small reactor.

For example, at ÚJV in Řež, researchers from the Czech Technical University are testing projects called CR-100, EnergyWell, or Hefasto. According to many experts, however, the naive idea is that the Czechia will build its own, functional and safe reactor in the competitive struggle.

Secondly: Just today, the head of nuclear supervision, Dana Drábová, is heading to Vienna for a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency. It wants to set common standards and licensing requirements for small power plants around the world.

Today, they are a little different in each country, which, among other things, makes the construction and permitting process very lengthy and complicated. In the end, this means that nowhere in Europe is it possible to build a large nuclear power plant on schedule and on budget.

“If we harmonized the requirements, it would mean that when a particular technology is licensed in one country, then supervision in another country may no longer require everything and take over things that have already been met,” explains Dana Drábová.

And the third event: A working group for small modular reactors met at the Ministry of Industry to address the safety requirements for small reactors. These are sources with a capacity of about 300 megawatts (for comparison: One Dukovany reactor has a capacity of 500, the Temelín giant even 1000 megawatts).

“The debate over small reactors has accelerated dramatically around the world in the last year. Our goal is to prepare the environment for the technology to be commercially available so that a new source can be built quickly, “says Deputy Minister of Industry Petr Třešňák.

At the same time, CEZ is not damaging the large reactors it operates today. After all, it has currently announced a tender for one large reactor in Dukovany, which may include a non-binding option for the construction of the third and fourth units in Temelín and possibly the sixth in Dukovany.

But even that is not enough as a replacement for obsolete power plants. Therefore, after testing the first small reactor in Temelín, ČEZ wants to build in a large barrel in northern Bohemia. Directly in the areas of gradually decommissioned coal-fired power plants.

The entire industrial world believes that small modular reactors are the right way to go. There are a number of advantages over giant power plants – smaller initial investments and, thanks to easier permitting, faster construction.

For example, today’s nuclear power plant, in addition to the reactor and generator, includes an almost unimaginable number of different auxiliary systems – hundreds of kilometers of pipes, cables, exchangers or pumps. Whereas a small reactor is to be a compact device which will be mass-produced and only brought and assembled at the destination.

“It is the serial production that is the key to the desired cheaper technology. Today, every reactor is original, every nuclear power plant is basically a unique device. Almost everything is made to measure. And everyone knows that a tailor-made suit costs many times more than a ready-made one, “explains Marek Ruščák, head of the nuclear safety research department at the State Institute of Radiation Protection.

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