PRAGUE, May 28 (Reuters) - The Czech government can lend majority state-owned utility CEZ money for a planned multi-billion dollar expansion at its Dukovany nuclear power plant, Industry Minister Karel Havlicek was quoted as saying on Thursday.
The Czech state has long been in talks with CEZ, in which it owns a 70% stake, about expanding its nuclear power fleet to replace blocks set to expire in coming decades, as well as lignite power plants to be retired in the 2030s.
But costs and financing have been sticking points.
In April, the government approved agreements for a framework deal for a new block to come online in 2036.
“The state will directly lend. It can borrow cheaply,” Havlicek told daily Hospodarske Noviny.
Havlicek said using the state to borrow would be much cheaper for the project, adding that any agreement must still get European Commission backing.
One new block is estimated to cost 160 billion crowns ($6.50 billion).
Critics, including some CEZ minority shareholders, argue it will run much higher.
The Czech Republic has been pushing for nuclear energy to be seen as a green or low-emission source under European Union rules, which Havlicek has said would help reduce funding costs. ($1=24.6100 Czech crowns) (Reporting by Jason Hovet)