December 22, 2014 / 12:30 PM / 4 years ago

New Czech energy strategy seeks to speed nuclear expansion

PRAGUE, Dec 22 (Reuters) - The Czech Republic should speed development of new nuclear power units that will generate half the country’s future electricity demand by building new reactors at the Temelin and Dukovany plants, the state’s updated energy strategy showed.

The centre-left government, which took power this year, is due to discuss the revised energy strategy to 2040 at a cabinet meeting on Monday.

A strategy document, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, said the state should “support and speed up” building new blocks in existing locations with a combined capacity of up to 2,500 megawatts (MW).

The document, drawn up by the industry ministry, also contained recommendations to solidify the central European nation’s role as an important transit country for natural gas.

The Czechs have long sought to boost the share of nuclear power from around one third of its electricity output despite neighbouring Germany’s decision to turn away from atomic energy following the Fukushima disaster in 2011.

The updated energy strategy also leaves open the question of financing new nuclear units, an issue important for majority state-owned utility CEZ’s plans to build new reactors.

CEZ, central Europe’s biggest utility, scrapped a tender worth more than $10 billion in April to expand Temelin because of low wholesale power prices and the state’s refusal to provide price guarantees.

CEZ has said it would wait for the new energy strategy before taking any new steps.

Industry Minister Jan Mladek has talked about building one new block each at the Dukovany and Temelin stations. He has also floated the option of a new state entity building the units and leasing them for use after that.

The state energy strategy suggested nuclear power should be a pillar that could generate around 50 percent of the country’s power generation. The state should look at extending the life of Dukovany by 50-60 years, the document found.

The Czech Republic should also maintain its role as a transit country for natural gas. The nation, reliant mostly on Russian deliveries, has in recent years increased shipments of gas coming through pipelines from the north from Germany to reduce need for supplies via Ukraine.

To ensure energy security, the state should secure construction of a proposed north-south corridor with connections to the Polish and Austrian systems, which is part of a wider plan to expand links across central and southeastern Europe, the document found. (Editing by Michael Kahn, editing by David Evans)

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