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Temelin in 1998

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 4, 1998) If the Temelin project were to have birthdays, this year it would celebrate its fifteens, and the celebration would not by far be a happy one. The only thing Temelin would enjoy is that it is not punished for its past crimes: demolition of villages a thousand years old, flooding a beautiful valley of Vltava river and creation of an ugly megalomaniac sculpture in the landscape have been defended by all governments: seven years for the sake of workers, seven years for the sake of a free-market economy.

(503.4963) WISE Brno -The fifteenth year is not a happy one for Temelin plant. Its director, Vojtech Kotyza, said in the beginning of 1998 that CEZ (the utility) may even abandon the whole project. Westinghouse corporation, hired as a strategic partner for safety upgrades of the Soviet project, vanished this year. The official budget and date of start-up became unrealistic, again. It was the minister of industry, Karel Kuhnl, who tried to stop the increasing doubts. He started with a famous quote, saying that he is not able to say how much Temelin will cost, but that he was sure it would be the least costly and most beneficial option to finish it. Later he found this logic to be too weak, and he ordered CEZ to elaborate an updated version of the budget.

Largest cost overrun
The result was shocking. CEZ announced another increase of budget, this time up to 99 billion CZK (US$3.4 billion). The projected start-up date is now scheduled for May 2001. When we compare these figures to the promises made in 1993, we can see that despite CZK30 billion sunk in Temelin, there was hardly any development. Today, as well as in 1993, CEZ keeps saying that it needs additional CZK35 billion and two more years to finish the power plant. (Just to remind you, in 1993, the government reapproved the construction, stating it would cost CZK69 billion and would be finished in 1995.)

Not only that the latest budget increase is the largest single one of a dozen cost overruns announced during 1990s, with a budget of CZK99 billion, the Temelin project exceeded the critical value of CZK96 billion, calculated as maximum if it should be the least-cost solution. This critical value was quoted by CEZ in December 1997 (see also WISE NC 486.4824: Cost rise and new delays endanger Temelin project). Yet, now when it is exceeded, CEZ started to use- -without any reasonable explanation--a mystical number of CZK156 billion as the least cost critical value.

Biased CEZ study
In order to defend the project even under these circumstances, CEZ prepared and published a "study" in May this year. This is very unusual, because this is the very first time CEZ made any relevant document about Temelin's economy available to the public. In order to prove that finishing Temelin makes sense, the study has been biased in many ways. For example:

  • There are several sources that are cheaper than finishing Temelin, such as gas CHP (combined heat-power). In order to disqualify these alternatives, CEZ presumes that their price would rise by 3% annually between now and 2005. By then, they would become more expensive than Temelin NPP. At the same time, CEZ considers the CZK99 billion budget to be a final one, with no increases in the future. This is very unlikely because the cost of finishing Temelin rose by 20% annually on average during the past five years. And there are still risks for additional cost overruns, admitted even in the CEZ study itself.
  • CEZ says the costs to abandon the project would be higher than to finish it. According to its calculations, only the dismantling of a non-finished plant would cost CZK26.5 billion, and additional billions would add up as damages and fines to the suppliers. The figure for dismantling is absurd. According to the Ministery of Industry, the demolition would cost something like CZK10 billion. A clear indication that something is wrong comes also from the fact that on other occasions, CEZ says the full decomissioning of the plant (after 30 years of operation) would cost only CZK17 billion! CEZ is therefore overestimating the costs linked to cancellation, in order to push for finishing the project. (At the same time, it is probably seriously underestimating decommissioning costs, again to create a picture that Temelin production would be cheap.)
  • In a similar game with numbers, CEZ is disqualifying an option of energy savings. By choosing the least effective and most costly measures (such as efficient light bulbs), CEZ calculates in its study that it would cost CZK124 billion to save 1.6 TWh annually. This would mean that energy savings are almost 100 times more expensive than production! A clear nonsense, if savings are cheaper even in the West, they must be even more beneficial in the Czech Republic where energy intensity is three times higher (compared to the EU average)!
  • CEZ estimates that the demand for electricity would sharply grow in the Czech Republic. This is in contradiction to a continuous drop in demand observed since 1996. Only during the first half of 1998, the electricity demand in households fell by 7%--yet CEZ is ready to claim that household consumption would rise by 25% till 2010!

In order to add the weight to its weak arguments, CEZ is blackmailing the government and the public in its study. Should Temelin be cancelled, writes CEZ, it would bankrupt the whole utility, the state would have to pay over CZK100 billion on damages, no more foreign investors would appear in the Czech Republic, and the prices for electricity in households would be at least be doubled.

Temelin Investigation Team
All the biases were analyzed in a study prepared by Hnuti DUHA/WISE Brno. Experts and advisors decided even to pick up our analysis and gave it to the ministers as one of the few background materials for their discussion.
Fortunately, the then minister of environment, Martin Bursik, had enough courage to oppose CEZ. Thanks to him and several other ministers, it was the first time in history that the government had not passively agreed to what CEZ said was true. Therefore, on the meeting on July 1, the government passed a decision to establish a special independent Investigation Team to assess the Temelin project. Based on objective information gathered by the team, the government would take a final decision whether to cancel or go on with the Temelin construction.

Temelin protest camp
For the first two weeks in July, Hnuti DUHA organized a traditional protest camp at Temelin (for the 6th year already). Unlike in previous years, we have not organized a blockade due to the fact that for the first time, the government was really willing to listen to us and we preferred to focus our energy into this direction. Thus, the camp was rather an ecological-cultural festival. We had a rock festival and numerous other concerts, dozens of workshops, debates and happenings at the plant. Among 250 participants, we also saw two ministers--Martin Bursik (minister of environment) and Vladimir Mlynar (minister responsible for minorities and human rights). We got good media attention, and most people were happy to attend.

Social Democratic government
In the meantime, however, a completely new government was formed by the Social Democrats after the June general elections. The newly appointed minister of industry, Miroslav Gregr, was famous in the past for his opposition to the phase-out of uranium mines, claiming they were the industry for the 21st century. Immediately after entering his position, Gregr said he would not allow any doubts about Temelin. He also said he would propose that the Investigation Team be cancelled. A few weeks after that, Gregr published his idea that besides Temelin, additional new reactors should be built in the Czech Republic. Fortunately, all media and politicians attacked this idea, having in mind that Temelin itself is already a fiasco.

After a dispute between Gregr and Kuzvart, the new minister of environment, the government settled a compromise on the Investigation Team. The original idea was crippled, because the "new" team had limited tasks and an 'unbalanced' staff. Several of its members, appointed by the Social Democratic government, already expressed their opinion that it goes without saying that Temelin must be finished, and that the team would serve only as a tool to fight opponents and convince the public.

Also, the team faces a large delay. Despite that, it should have started in September, but it did not began its work until November 12 because not all positions were appointed. Missing were especially the international representatives, as the European Commission refused to send its staff to the team. Now, the Czech government approached neighboring countries (Austria, Germany, Poland and Slovakia) instead to participate in the team. This last step can be positive and we welcome it, but unless further changes are made, the team cannot be trusted at all. The teamþs task should clearly include an analysis of the future of electricity market in the Czech Republic; there should be a direct representative of Czech environmental groups in the team; and the input values and figures used for Temelin's economic analysis must be published so that they can be verified by other experts and citizens.

Recent campaigns
Currently, we are campaigning on four levels.

  • First is to deal somehow with the Investigation Team. Because there is a real threat for us if the team comes up with pro-Temelin recommendation, and media with the public still understand it as "objective", it would be a large backlash to our campaign.
  • Second is the international political situation. Especially within the framework of European Enlargement and Agenda 2000 (with conditions for accession countries), we are seeking ways to establish strict principles of nuclear safety for accession countries. Strict safety requirments would certainly kill our reactors.
  • Third is the lobbying and preparation for a referendum. The Social Democrats promised in the past several times that they would not allow Temelin to start up without a referendum. Although many of their politicians would probably rather forget about this, we will do our best to push for it. At the same time, we are working on development of a national network of grassroot activists who could help with information campaigns in case the referendum is announced.
  • Fourth direction is linked to money. CEZ is getting into real financial troubles, which--combined with huge cost overruns at Temelin--make it impossible to cover the costs. Therefore, CEZ would need to borrow large amounts of money abroad. CEZ approached three banks with a request for a DM250 million loan to be used also for Temelin: Deutsche Bank, Bayerische Landesbank and Sumotomo Bank Ltd. Unfortunately, on November 11, the contract for such a loan of DM280 million (CZK5 billion or US$165 million) was signed. So, this battle was lost.

Those who would like to keep updated may order a Temelin Information Service, a newsletter produced weekly on average, reporting and analyzing all important events related to the Temelin nuclear power plant.

Sources: WISE Brno October article and Temelin Information Service, issues 5 & 16 November 1998
Contact: Jan Beranek, WISE Brno
Tel: +420-5-4221 0438
Fax: +420-5-4221 0347