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Czech government unexpectedly expands nuclear power tender to four reactors

The Czech government has confirmed its decision to rely on nuclear power as the main source of energy for the future. At a press briefing in Prague the cabinet announced plans to expand the Dukovany tender to four nuclear reactors instead of one.

A press briefing in Prague brought a number of surprises. First, the cabinet said it was seriously considering the possibility to build four nuclear reactors in the coming years instead of one, and second it announced that the hot favourite in the Dukovany tender - the US company Westinghouse – was out of the running. Industry and Trade Minister Jozef Sikela explained why.

“The US-Canadian consortium Westinghouse did not meet the conditions of the tender. It did not submit a binding bid and therefore it cannot be evaluated on a par with the other contenders.”

The government said it would invite the two remaining bidders, the French company EDF and the Korean company KHNP, to submit binding bids for the construction of four reactors instead of one by April 15. Prime Minister Petr Fiala said the change of plan was based on cost.

“I cannot specify the prices offered, because the tender is ongoing. But what I can say is that if we decide to build four reactors instead of one, the cost of one would be significantly lower - by around 25 percent, which means that we could build four reactors for the price of three. That was unexpected and led us to request a binding offer for three more reactors.”

The Czech energy company ČEZ will evaluate the bids and submit an evaluation report to the government for approval by the end of May. The cabinet will then decide how many reactors will be built.<br/> Minister for Industry and Trade Jozef Sikela noted that the construction of more reactors could "optimize" the construction process and also increase the chance of a greater share of the overall work and contracts being placed with Czech companies.

Under the initial tender, construction work on the first new Dukovany reactor was expected to start in 2029, with the reactor being ready for operation in 2035. The timing of construction and location of any follow up reactors remains open.

Asked whether the country is in a position to consider such a huge investment at a time when the government is struggling to reduce the debt in public finances, the prime minister said this investment is essential.

This is a strategic investment which is absolutely essential. Electricity consumption will grow significantly in the coming decades and if we want to meet the needs of our companies and our citizens we will need nuclear power. Nuclear power will ensure enough electricity at reasonable prices and it will enable the country to meet international climate goals. It is the only way forward and it is something we simply have to do.”

The Dukovany tender will be the largest investment project in Czechia’s history. According to earlier statements by ČEZ, the price of one reactor is estimated at around CZK 160 billion.

Czechia currently has six nuclear reactors in two power plants. Two units, each with a capacity of about 1,000 megawatts, are at Temelín in the southern parts of the country. Four smaller units with a capacity of 510 megawatts are at Dukovany in the Třebic region. In addition to new conventional reactors, ČEZ is also preparing the construction of small modular reactors. The first of them should be built in Temelín.

Prepared by the team from the foreign office CzechTrade Egypt.
Source: Radio Prague International / Český rozhlas, Česká televize
Author: Daniela Lazarová