Top Czech official warns of energy equivalent of euro crisis

EU states are in denial over future electricity supplies, hoping someone else will find a solution, top Czech energy official warns

Chris Johnstone 4.11.2011
The government’s Temelín commissioner Václav Bartuška says foreign demand for Czech electricity exports is bound to grow | na serveru Lidovky.cz | aktuální zprávy The government’s Temelín commissioner Václav Bartuška says foreign demand for Czech electricity exports is bound to grow | foto: © ČTKČeská pozice
The government’s Temelín commissioner Václav Bartuška says foreign demand for Czech electricity exports is bound to grow

A top Czech government energy official has accused European countries of taking the same attitude towards future energy security as towards the single currency euro — hoping that someone else will sort the problem out.

“What we are seeing is a type of energetic euro,” the government special ambassador for overseeing construction of two new nuclear reactors at the existing Temelín site, Václav Bartuška, warned at a conference about European energy cooperation in Prague on Thursday. “We are seeing a lot of wishful thinking in Europe,” he added.

‘What we are seeing is a type of energetic euro.’

Most European countries and the whole European Union expected to face a serious shortfall of electricity in coming years and counted on imports from someone else to fill the gap. “The problem is that these countries do not say specifically where these imports will be coming from,” added Bartuška, who was previously charged by the government with energy security issues.

He praised the current center-right government for pushing ahead with plans to expand nuclear power production in the country in the face of rising pressure from other European countries not to go ahead with the Temelín expansion.

Fukushima fall-out

Pressure to shelve the plans increased after the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan earlier this year and Germany’s decision to go non-nuclear from 2020 with other countries, such as Switzerland, Belgium and Italy also announcing plans to shut down existing nuclear plants or to ditch plans for new nuclear capacity.

Czech neighbor Austria has been a traditional opponent of nuclear power and especially the Temelín power plant in the south of the country, around 40 kilometers from the Czech-Austrian border, which it says is dangerous because it is based on an original Soviet design with Western technology added on later. ‘If we want to do this [go ahead with Temelín], then we should. It does not depend on Brussels, Berlin, or anywhere else.’

Bartuška gave a blunt message about such opposition. “If we want to do this [go ahead with Temelín], then we should. It does not depend on Brussels, Berlin, or anywhere else. That is just looking for excuses,” he said.

A milestone in moves to build two new nuclear reactors at Temelín took place on Monday when the three bidders for the contract, estimated to be worth around Kč 200 billion, were given technical and other details from state-controlled electricity company ČEZ so that they could make their final offers by July 2, 2012.

The three bidders are France’s Areva, US-based nuclear company Westinghouse, and a consortium led by Russia’s Atomstroyexport and Czech nuclear industry supplier Škoda JS). The two new reactors should be up and running by 2025.

The Czech Republic has traditionally been the second biggest electricity exporter in the European Union, following France, but could also face a situation where it might have to import electricity if existing coal-fired power plants, which will not meet stricter emissions regulations, have to close and no new major power plants are built.

Previous articles about the tender to expand the Temelín plant are archived here