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Central European nuclear renaissance stalling

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#723
6117
25/02/2011
Jan Haverkamp, Greenpeace EU energy campaigner
Article

Much of the nuclear renaissance talk of the last years was targeted at the EU new member states in Central Europe. The combination of centralized energy structures based on the pre-1989 planned economy, short links between politics and nuclear lobby and the need for re-powering because of the end of life-time of much of the current electricity generation capacity looked like the perfect backdrop for reviving old nuclear dreams.

Most of Central Europe, with the notable exception of Hungary and the Baltic States, survived the recent financial crisis quite well. Nevertheless, nuclear projects and plans are confronted increasingly with delays. Projects and plans in Poland, Slovakia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Romania and Bulgaria faced important complications and delays in the first months of 2011.

Visaginas, Lithuania – the ghost of Russia
Rosatom from Russia announced the start of construction in 2011 of the Kaliningrad and Belarus nuclear power stations. Even though these projects will probably be hit with a recently announced cut-back in Russian nuclear expansion, this has pushed plans for the Visaginas nuclear power station in Lithuania further backwards. The Lithuanian government fiercely protested the quality of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) of both neighboring projects but this has not helped wooing strategic investors for Visaginas after Korean KEPKO withdrew from the project on December 6, 2010.

Cernavoda, Romania – strategic investors withdraw, fate of EIA uncertain
On 24 January, CEZ, GdF-Suez / Electrabel, RWE and Iberdrola officially withdrew from the project during the shareholder meeting of ElectroNuclear, the holding company of the project. This leaves only Romanian state utility Nuclearelectrica, ENEL from Italy and the Romanian branch of steel-giant Arcelor Mittal involved.

Three consortia were accepted in the tender for construction of this project: one led by US / Canadian engineering giant Bechtel, the second led by SNC Lavalin, the Canadian engineering company practically taking over much of what Canadian state owned AECL was involved in, and a Russian consortium led by Atomtechnoprom. Given the problems Bechtel is currently facing with a high-way project in Romania and the lack of experience of the Russian consortium with both the CANDU design as with EU regulatory practices, this looks like a pre-determined tender for SNC Lavalin.

In the mean time, Romanian NGO Terra Mileniul III discovered that EnergoNuclear contracted several consultants for the development of parts for “an adequate Environmental Impact Assessment”. This sheds doubt over the fate of the EIA that started in 2006 and that still has not been approved.

Belene, Bulgaria – power games with Russia
On 6 February, a memo from the head of Atomstroyexport Sergej Kiriyenko leaked to the French daily La Tribune in which he advised Rosatom to withdraw from the Belene project. He argued that the 200 million Euro compensation payment would be larger than the 150 million Euro Rosatom was expected to profit. A day later, however, Atomstroyexport declared during a conference in Bulgaria that it expects to start poring concrete in September of this year and denied the relevance of the leaked document. Bulgarian Prime Minster Borissov announced that when Russia will not back down on the inflation correction it agreed with his predecessor, Bulgaria will not continue with Belene. Borissov asked journalists “Are we going to lose 200 M or 2.5 B – this is the question. What funds do we have left then for construction, for providing better life to Bulgarian citizens – money for pensions, education, increase of wages, infrastructure?”

Also resistance in Serbia is growing over participation in the Belene project.

Mochovce, Slovakia – construction continuing with invalid licenses
After a groundbreaking ruling of the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee declared three permits for changes in the Mochovce 3,4 design in breach with the Aarhus Convention because the Slovak regulator UJD had not waited for the conclusion of the ongoing EIA (see Nuclear Monitor 722), Slovenske elektrarne and ENEL continue construction. The European Commission is investigating how the ACCC ruling should be implemented and Slovakia has taken the unprecedented step to send a complaint about the ruling to the UNECE – the secretariat of the Aarhus Convention. This means that it might seek to have the judgment overturned during June's Meeting of Parties to the Convention in Chisinau, Moldava. The involved NGOs, Greenpeace Slovakia, Za Matku Zem, Global2000 and Ökobüro Wien are currently contemplating legal steps to force a halt of construction of Mochovce 3,4 and a new public participation procedure.

Temelín, Czech Republic – Five years delay in planning
The Czech electricity giant CEZ announced a five year delay for the Temelin 3,4 project. Ladislav Kriz, spokesman for CEZ that operates Temelín, said it was rather an administrative measure and that CEZ expected the project to be completed earlier.

Nuclear Energy Program, Poland – SEA confronts nuclear government with reality
On 27 December, the Polish Ministry of Economy announced a three week public consultation on Strategic Environmental Assessment of the Polish Nuclear Energy Program, to start on the 30th of December. A fast intervention from Greenpeace, followed by other NGOs, made clear to the Polish Government, that three weeks was too little under the Aarhus Convention and the EU SEA Directive for proper public participation on the basis of the 1205 pages of documentation issued by the Ministry. It also pointed out a transboundary assessment had to be made. The Ministry not only had to extend the term for public input to three months (ending 31 March 2011), but also announced a transboundary procedure, though no time-line has been published for this so far.

The delivered environmental assessment fails among others to properly address alternatives, the issue of radioactive waste and is inadequate concerning the possible effects of large accidents and security, so that further delays can be expected.

The potential operation date for the first Polish nuclear power plant already has been postponed from 2020 to 2022.

Source and contact: Jan Haverkamp, Greenpeace EU policy campaigner dirty energy expert on energy issues in Central Europe, Tel. +32 2 27419 21
Email: [email protected]


Energy for the Future?

A new publication from the Heinrich Boell Stiftung, WISE Brno and Hnuti DUHA / FoE CZ describes the nuclear lobby and its influence on energy policies in Central Europe (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria).

It is available for download at: http://www.boell.cz/navigation/65-962.html