October 30, 2018 / 11:09 AM / 16 days ago

UPDATE 1-Czech PM sees Dukovany extension an option in nuclear plans

* PM Babis: Dukovany could be extended by 10 years

* Extension cost CZK 20 bln, fraction of new unit

* CEZ: future regulatory, economic conditions part of assessment

* Govt may decide this year on massive nuclear power expansion (Adds CEZ comment, shares, details)

PRAGUE, Oct 30 (Reuters) - The lifespan of Czech utility CEZ’s Dukovany nuclear power plant could be extended by 10 years at a cost of 20 billion crowns ($878 million), a fraction of the price of a new unit, Prime Minister Andrej Babis said on Tuesday.

The government has been considering how to fund a multi-billion dollar expansion of CEZ’s nuclear power plants, before some units reach the end of their lifetime. It had aimed to make a decision this year.

The government however, has also raised the option of extending Dukovany’s life beyond 2035 which would relieve it of the pressure of having to decide now, and give it more time.

CEZ has balked at starting a tender without receiving state guarantees for the massive investment while Babis has said the company, central Europe’s largest listed utility that is 70 percent state-owned, can handle the project itself.

CEZ’s Dukovany and Temelin plants met 38 percent of the country’s energy needs last year.

Babis, as quoted by CTK news agency, said on Tuesday the government committee debating the issue had discussed an extension at its last meeting.

CEZ said it was possible to extend Dukovany’s lifespan but that any assessment should take future regulatory and economic conditions into account, not just technical aspects.

“We can imagine an extension to (Dukovany’s) operation,” a company spokesman said in an emailed statement.

Some minority shareholders are afraid a nuclear power expansion through the construction of new reactors would dent dividend payouts if CEZ, were pushed to finance it on its own. The company could face shareholder lawsuits.

Earlier in October, Industry Minister Marta Novakova told Reuters the state’s preferred option remained CEZ guaranteeing the project.

CEZ had scrapped its previous nuclear tender in 2014 after failing to receive state guarantees on power prices it had sought to minimise risks.

CEZ shares were down 0.7 percent on Tuesday at 537.50 crowns after gains of over 3 percent in the previous session. ($1 = 22.7750 Czech crowns) (Reporting by Jason Hovet Editing by Edmund Blair and Alexandra Hudson)

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