ČEZ earmarks extra Kč 2 billion for nuclear plant safety

Power major ČEZ to boost protection of its two Czech nuclear power plants against natural elements; critics say plans are political and superfluous

Tom Jones 4.4.2012
Čtyři ze šesti českých reaktorů, konkrétně v Dukovanech (na snímku), nemají masivní ochrannou obálku, zvanou kontejnment. | na serveru Lidovky.cz | aktuální zprávy Čtyři ze šesti českých reaktorů, konkrétně v Dukovanech (na snímku), nemají masivní ochrannou obálku, zvanou kontejnment. | foto: © ČESKÁ POZICEČeská pozice
Čtyři ze šesti českých reaktorů, konkrétně v Dukovanech (na snímku), nemají masivní ochrannou obálku, zvanou kontejnment.

On top of current annual spending of around Kč 2.5 billion on nuclear safety, Czech state-controlled power company ČEZ plans to plough some Kč 2 billion more into protecting the two Czech nuclear plants against natural occurrences such as earthquakes, hurricanes and extreme floods, the daily Lidové noviny reported on Wednesday.

The decision to invest into protection against extreme natural events comes in response to inspections conducted by the Czech State Office for Nuclear Safety (SÚJB) last year to assess the level of preparedness of the Dukovany and Temelín nuclear power plants in the event of a major natural disaster.

“We are planning on such an investment. Even with this investment, in the long term nuclear power plants are still among the cheapest sources of power,” ČEZ spokesman Ladislav Kříž told the daily. From the Kč 2 billion, around Kč 1.5 billion will be spent on safety at Dukovany, the older of the two Czech plants which began power generation in 1985. ‘Even with this investment, in the long term nuclear power plants are still among the cheapest sources of power.’

ČEZ last week issued several tenders for the provision of safety mechanisms against natural disasters. Equipment to be purchased includes additional backup diesel generators in the event that alternative power sources also fail. The failure of backup power was a key factor behind the meltdown and consequent explosion at the Fukushima plant in Japan a little over a year ago as it caused the plant’s cooling system to shut down.  

ČEZ’s current annual spending of Kč 2.5 billion on safety goes into long-term operational safety measures and projects, as opposed to protection against natural disasters.

Not prepared for magnitude 7

Stress tests conducted by the SÚJB showed that Dukobvany and Temelín are currently not sufficiently protected against an earthquake of a magnitude of seven and above on the Richter Scale, nor could they withstand an extreme flood.

Nevertheless, the likelihood of such extreme natural disasters occurring in the locations of the two Czech nuclear plants is practically zero, for the foreseeable future at least: neither plant is anywhere near a tectonic fault line and the largest earthquake ever measured in what is now the Czech Republic measured a maximum of five on the Richter scale. That earthquake occurred in the Cheb region adjacent to the German border in the northwest of the country in 1908.

According to Czech Nuclear Society (ČNS) chairman Václav Hanus, the planned extra safety measures are largely superfluous. “During the large floods in the summer of 2002, several water and coal power plants were knocked out of operation, but Temelín and Dukovany continued operating without restrictions,” Hanus told Lidové noviny, adding he considers the measures recommended by the SÚJB to be  “politically imposed premium extras.”