What is currently happening in the Czech Republic

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What is currently happening in the Czech Republic in terms of nuclear energy and what role does Calla play in it?

The Czech government approved the State Energy Policy (ASEK) on 18 May 2015. Calla, along with other associations – the Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace - issued a joint press release for it. One of the most contentious issues, which the policy promotes, is the high proportion of nuclear energy and coal. When looking into the study called Smart Energy (2009), you will find that the policy resembles the first and the worst-case scenario called "No Active Policy" because the Czech Republic does virtually nothing for the transformation of Czech energy towards renewable energy (renewables' share in electricity production should be max. 25%, and it is unclear whether the state intends to help households in achieving energy autonomy). On the contrary, the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MPO) wants to re-enforce its plans for new nuclear reactors. And the National Action Plan for the Development of Nuclear Energy in the Czech Republic (NAP JE ČR) aims at pushing these through.

NAP JE ČR is to be adopted in the coming weeks. The MPO Minister, Jan Mládek, and Finance Minister, Andrej Babiš, collaborated on it. The plan's formation could be classified as “top secret”. The plan promotes four nuclear reactors, two at Dukovany NPP and two at Temelín NPP. It is expected, however, that eventually "only" two reactors will go ahead (the Dukovany dating from 1985 to 1987 should outstrip the Temelín from 2000-02). Mládek applies his model: we shall decide now, begin the licensing process, the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), urban planning, vendor selection, spend up to 1.2 billion EUR by 2025 and then decide where to build the nuclear reactors and how the State will support the decision financially.

For the construction of nuclear reactors there should be allocated a ČEZ’s subsidiary and the contractors should get involved in it. The method of subsidy is not clear yet. The British model of support for the Hinkley Point C is unwanted by “ANO“ (Czech political party with the Minister Babiš at the head) and the Czech government does not want Mládek’s proposal for the Hungarian model designed for PAKS II. Regardless this the plan considers the guaranteed purchase price for the investor between 66 to 86 EUR per MWh for 35 years. According to independent analyses, the costs under the contract for difference (CfD) would range between 37 to 73 billion EUR. Calla, together with the Friends of the Earth, comments on these strategies in their May press releases and in March it was trying to provoke debate on this issue in both chambers of the Czech Parliament by distributing the fact sheet "Overly expensive nuclear plans".

The only great news is that MPO ultimately excluded speculations about the construction of a nuclear fuel plant from the NAP ČR. Calla has contributed significantly to this decision by its activities in support of residents in two localities being considered for this plant - Bystřice nad Pernštejnem and Světlá nad Sázavou in the Vysočina region.

Another hot topic is the new uranium mining of deposit Brzkov-Věžnice near Jihlava. Its preparations were approved by the Czech government in December 2014, despite the opposition from local municipalities and the public, to whom Calla provides information and support. And despite the existing Raw Material Policy (1999) which envisages that with the end of uranium mining in Dolní Rožínka (about 50 km from Brzkov) the Czechia should dedicate to a clean-up and no new uranium mining should be started because tens of millions of euros have already been spent on its termination. The state enterprise DIAMO, which is in charge of the remediation of damages after uranium mining, will still need hundreds of millions of euros for remediation and these will have to be paid from the state budget each year. A tactic for opening a new last European uranium mine is similar to Mládek’s plan for new nuclear reactors: the government decided to start preparations for new uranium mining, DIAMO is going to obtain all the permits, EIA is to be approved, and then a new MPO Minister in 2018 will decide whether to give his approval for mining, and whether over 100 million EUR will be released from the budget to invest in uranium mine and state subsidies will be endorsed (depending on the development of world uranium prices).

Under current market conditions uranium mining is not realistic, nor economically feasible. Then why are MPO and DIAMO longing so much for this unprofitable mining? The reason is the plan to outlast 30 years of uranium industry on this deposit in Brzkov where there is only about 3,000 tonnes of uranium – the insignificant amount which our state basically does not need, because it could buy it cheaply on the world markets, overflowing with uranium. And after those 30 years DIAMO wants to get at thousands of tonnes of North Bohemian uranium deposits in Stráž pod Ralskem and mine them using the infamous in-situ leaching (ISL) method again.

Another controversial issue related to nuclear energy in the Czech Republic is finding the site for the final Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) of high-level radioactive waste. In the Czech Republic there are seven potential sites and the people in them held protest actions on the historically first “Day Against GDF” on April 18th, by which they reaffirmed their disagreement with the fact that the state does not respect their opinion against the construction of GDF and does proceed badly, without clearly defined criteria. At five locations the Minister of the Environment, Richard Brabec, dismissed municipalities and associations' appeals and allowed surveys to proceed. The two remaining sites are still waiting for a decision. Calla's Chairman, Edvard Sequens, represents the public in the Working Group (WG) for Dialogue on a GDF, which will address the law that would strengthen the rights of municipalities and define the criteria for site selection. However, WG under the auspices of the Government Council for Energy and Raw Materials Strategy of the Czech Republic in control of Ministers Mládek and Brabec does not resemble too much an effective tool which might help the general public, disagreeing with the current situation, enforce their rights.

And the last piece of the puzzle in the Czech nuclear energy - in autumn 2015, the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of the updated Concept on Radioactive Waste and Spent Nuclear Fuel Management is going to be run. Calla strives to activate the public to submit their comments on it.

Olga Kališová, Calla (May 27, 2015)

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