Czechs will look to EU to defend nuclear push-CEZ

Wed Oct 19, 2011 9:10am EDT

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* Czechs cite right to pick own energy mix

* CEZ plans at least two more reactors

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By Jana Mlcochova

PRAGUE, Oct 19 (Reuters) - The Czech Republic will look to the European Union to defend its nuclear expansion plans and fend off growing opposition from neighbouring Germany and Austria, a top official at Czech utility CEZ CEZPsp.PR said on Wednesday.

Alan Svoboda, sales chief at the majority state-owned utility seeking to build more reactors, said the Czech Republic must counter pressure from other European Union member states if it wants independence in structuring its energy industries.

"We have to defend that with reference to the Lisbon Treaty which says that each country has the right to pick its own energy mix and at the same time it does not have the right to interfere and tell other countries how they should be thinking about their energy mix," Svoboda told an energy conference.

CEZ plans to build two additional units at its Temelin plant and then potentially up to three other units in Slovakia and at its Dukovany plant.

Toshiba Corp unit Westinghouse, an alliance of Russia's Atomstroyexport and Czech company Skoda JS, and France's Areva , are bidding to build the units in the biggest-ever Czech procurement deal.

A government policy paper has also proposed to build a string of new atomic plants in the central European country, including boosting reliance on nuclear to 80 percent of all energy needs by 2060.

The nuclear push has stirred opposition in Austria -- whose border lies some 50 km (30 miles) from CEZ's Temelin nuclear plant -- as well as in Germany which announced a retreat from nuclear following Japan's Fukushima disaster in March.

Opponents cite Fukushima as reasons why nuclear power is unsafe while Czechs see nuclear as a key plank in ensuring future energy security for the former Soviet block nation that gets most of its gas supplies from Russia.

"We must defend that politically amid the counter-pressure of our neighbours, Germany, Austria and possibly other member states," Svoboda said.

Germany's decision to exit nuclear power has also boosted long-term power prices, something Svoboda predicted would continue despite the benchmark hitting seven-month lows this week.

An uncertain economic outlook could further depress baseload electricity for 2012 delivery but prices are not likely to fall below pre-Fukushima levels, he said.

"We can see these trends but of course it can quickly turn around, the fears of a recession can subside, a cold winter can come and the market sentiment can change," Svoboda said.

"Prices will not quickly return to the pre-Fukushima levels. Those 8,000 MW (lost due to Germany shutting down reactors in April) in our region are simply gone. There was a structural jump which lasts." (Editing by Michael Kahn and Keiron Henderson)

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