Slovenia’s Infrastructure Ministry on 19 July issued an energy permit for the construction of the second unit at the Krško NPP, a step that allows permitting procedures to begin. It comes a week after the national climate strategy enshrined nuclear as a long-term energy option. The project will be managed by the state-owned Gen Energija, which submitted its application for such a permit on 31 January 2020.
"The energy permit kick-starts the broadest possible public debate, not just at the expert level but also among the people," Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec told reporters, adding that this did not mark the final decision on the investment, and was merely the first step.
Only after a broad social consensus is reached, procedures such as siting, the acquisition of a building permit, selection of contractor and construction itself will begin. Project details such as estimated price, time frame or selection of technology have not yet been determined, nor has the precise location.
Vrtovec said the energy permit would serve as the basis for the verification of environmental, spatial, technical and economic parameters in the form of a national spatial plan, environmental impact assessment, cross-border impact assessment, building permit acquisition, selection of supplier and financing. He said the plan was to build a 1,100MWe unit with an estimated production of 8-12 TWh of electricity a year and a life span of 60 years.
The best available technology at the time of tendering will be used. According to Gen Energija director general Martin Novšak, for now the best and safest technology is a pressurised water reactor of the kind currently in use in Krško. Novšak said the second unit was "necessary and technologically feasible" and provided the answer to the energy trilemma - the balance of reliability of supply, environmental acceptability and economics. The company has enough experience to manage the project economically and transparently.
The investment would be financed with a combination of own sources, potentially with the help of co-investors and even with EU funds, he noted. Novšak said the optimistic scenario was to arrive at a final decision in five years, after which it would take five years to complete construction. "This is a really ambitious goal," he said.
President Borut Pahor recently mentioned that a major decision such as this should be put to a referendum. Vrtovec said there was "no hurry" to do that, but if the people want a referendum "I see no serious problem why the people should not express their opinion."
Based on good experience with the original power station, Vrtovec expects that the people will support the project. As for neighbouring countries - Austria is a staunch opponent of nuclear and some stakeholders in Italy have expressed apprehension - Vrtovec said their positions were clear, but "every country secures its own energy mix".
Slovenia plans to abandon coal by 2033, Vrtovec does not think energy independence could be achieved only with alternative energy sources, and without nuclear. Slovenia's current nuclear installation, launched at Krško in 1983, has a permit to operate until 2023 but a 20-year extension has already been requested and is now the subject of various assessment procedures.
In general, it is estimated that a new plant would cost around €5 billion, and Gen Energija would finance it with its own income from the sale of electricity, as well as loans and bonds, but the possibility of other partners participating in the project is not excluded..
According to Vrtovec, Slovenia has put the construction of the second unit into its long-term plans because it would ensure fulfilment of European criteria for achieving climate neutrality, reduce the balance of fossil fuels in electricity production. electricity, and dependence on imports of that energy. “Our electricity system would become more robust, and thus fit into the ambitious plan of the European Commission on the rapid reduction of the use of fossil fuels,” he said.
The single unit Krško NPP, located in Slovenia near the border with Croatia, generates some 40% of Slovenia's electricity output. Its two-loop 688MWe Westinghouse PWR began commercial operation in January 1983, and a 20-year extension to its initial 40-year operational lifetime was confirmed in mid-2015. The plant is co-owned by neighbouring Croatia. GEN Energija incorporates the Slovenian stake in joint Slovene-Croat company Nuklearna Elektrarna Krško, which owns and operates the plant.