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Interfax: Czech Republic needs new nuclear power sources to cover rising energy demands - analysts

14.6.2006 17:32

PRAGUE. JUNE 14. INTERFAX CENTRAL EUROPE - The Czech Republic's medium-term power needs would be best met by constructing new nuclear energy facilities, rather than through development of coal-fired plants, as this would be the most cost-effective option, analysts interviewed by Interfax said.

“Of course there are more possibilities, but I am convinced that [the Czech Republic] will not avoid construction of new (most likely two) nuclear blocks," Ceska sporitelna analyst Lukas Zidon said. "Since nuclear energy has the cheapest (almost zero) variable expenses, it is from the power-production point of view also the most effective. The Temelin nuclear power plant so far confirms that its operation is reliable, without unplanned outages.”

The government is looking for alternatives to the country's coal-fired power plants, which at the moment supply approximately 60% of the electricity consumed in the Czech Republic and which are due to be replaced in a decade. The 50% rise in Czech electricity consumption from the current level after 2020, as foreseen by the government energy policy, mean the country's current status as a net electricity producer is under threat.

Komercni banka analyst Lukas Dufek said that the high energy requirements of Czech industry combined with ongoing economic growth will likely see the surplus, which is currently exported, drop significantly despite moves to support energy saving.

“At present, we have capacity surplus and we export electricity. The growth of domestic consumption, however, will gradually eliminate this,” Dufek told Interfax.

On Tuesday State Authority for Nuclear Safety (SUJB) chairwoman Dana Drabova told an energy industry congress she is convinced that the Czech Republic needs new nuclear reactors because `only nuclear technologies' can cover the growing demand for energy in the decades to come.

State-owned energy giant CEZ, which produces approximately 70% of the electricity generated in the country annually, operates two nuclear power plants - Temelin and Dukovany - that provide approximately 40% of the electricity consumed in the Czech Republic.

Cyrrus analyst Jan Prochazka said that the development of renewable energy sources on a large scale, supported by both the European Union and the Czech Republic, is expected no earlier than the next decade - meaning nuclear energy is the only power source that can meet rising demand.

“Nuclear power is from the mid-term point of view most probably the most suitable coverage of the Czech Republic's growing demands for energy,” Prochazka said.

Next Finance analyst Vladimir Pikora said political influences may, however, steer the country away from the nuclear option and towards electricity imports and more renewable sources.

“Since the political situation in the Czech Republic is going to change soon, with the Green Party entering the Parliament after the June general elections, I expect alternative sources to become the center of attention,” said Pikora. "Energy can be also imported. The combination of words `only nuclear power' sounds too strong to me."

Analysts said other potential options for energy sources include extending coal mining limits and continuation of electricity production from coal-fired power plants, construction of gas-fired power plants, use of wind and solar energy, and biomass burning.

However, they warned that pursuit of any of these other sources might result in significant price increases.

“All these alternatives are expensive and it would considerably increase prices of electricity,” said Zidon, who also favors the nuclear energy.

Dufek said that renewable resources would not save the situation.

“It is likely to expect higher use of biomass in the future, however, the serving out of coal-fired power plants is not going to fully replace the increasing demand,” he said.

“The [construction of new nuclear resources] appears to be the most optimal, as it would secure relative energy self-sufficiency (as nuclear fuel is bought several years ahead) and reduction of CO2 emissions. Nuclear power is also economically competitive,” Dufek added, while noting that the problem with this form of energy is disposal of nuclear waste - the key argument for opponents of nuclear power.

Drabova said that nuclear energy is not a long-term solution for the Czech Republic or other countries"Body Text">“A time will come when reserves of fossil fuels will be exhausted as well, and in the end there will be nothing else than renewable energy sources. However, we have no technologies for their effective use. I therefore claim that nuclear energy gives us time,” said Drabova.

Analysts are agreed that at the moment nuclear technology is the cheapest energy source. They say that while construction of a nuclear power plant costs more money than comparable coal-fired or gas-powered plants, investment in fuel and overall running costs are cheaper.

The share of energy produced by nuclear energy in the Czech Republic is similar to the 35% of overall EU consumption nuclear energy represents. The state energy concept estimates that this ratio will remain the same after 2030.

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