The Czech government has approved the “Czech SMR Roadmap – Applicability & Contribution to Economy”, which was submitted by the Ministry of Industry & Trade. Based on the Roadmap, small modular reactor (SMR) technology will be included in the State Energy Policy and recognised in the Spatial Development Policy of the Czech Republic. The Roadmap provides an overview of possible sites and investment models.

“Small and medium-sized reactors will be a great addition to the modern power system of the Czech Republic, both in terms of electricity and heat generation,” said Minister of Industry & Trade Jozef Síkela. “Our vision is for SMRs to complement large nuclear units from the 2030s-40s onwards. In this way, we will capitalise on the unique know-how of our nuclear industry. The approved Roadmap will provide investors with certainty, so that they can prepare sites and subsequently make investment decisions." He added: "This will give Czech companies the opportunity to participate in supply chains of Czech and foreign projects in the future, to look for partners abroad and play an important role in the development of this promising field. This is an exceptional opportunity to succeed in a high value-added industry.”

The Ministry noted that work is underway on a number of designs, with their representatives having expressed interest in cooperating with Czech companies. Interested companies include Rolls-Royce SMR and GE Hitachi, “which, according to the latest information, are most advanced in the development of a functional SMR”. Joint development between Czech and foreign companies in the form of a joint venture is also being considered.

The 30-page Roadmap summarises the current situation with respect to SMRs and outlines the suggestions of a working group that met throughout 2022 and 2023 under the Ministry’s leadership. It sets out the framework for possible application of SMR technology in the Czech Republic, outlines approaches to economic opportunities, provides information on Czech SMR designs, and on offers from foreign manufacturers. It also suggests suitable sites, details investor models and necessary legislative changes.

The government resolution now assigns tasks with the aim of creating a suitable investor environment, based on the so-called taxonomy. The Roadmap recommends speeding up the process of site selection and preparation in order to start construction in the first half of 2030s. In addition to existing nuclear sites, promising locations include coal-fired power plants such as Detmarovice and Tisová.

"Due to their size and power output, these reactors can be a suitable replacement for coal-fired power plants which are being phased out,” said Deputy Minister Petr Trešnák. “Apart from current nuclear sites, which were primarily intended for the construction of classic nuclear reactors, SMRs can be sited at other locations. These need to be identified and prepared in time. That, too, is what the Roadmap is exploring."

Deputy Senior Director of the Ministry’s Energy & Nuclear Resources Section Tomáš Ehler noted that the first implemented SMR projects and operating experience will indicate their economic viability and the preparation and construction times involved. “The aim of the Roadmap and its implementation is to give us a head-start in using the technology in and in supporting the export potential of Czech companies," he said.

The report says: “Governments of the countries of origin of the manufacturers are supporting the emergence of an innovative fleet-based approach to the production and construction of nuclear power plants to make their construction more efficient and accessible, in particular by reducing overall investment and operating costs. For the Czech Republic, joining the supply chain and producing modules in the Czech Republic is a strategic opportunity that would mean the development of a new economic focus, the maintenance of nuclear know-how, a long--term partnership with the country of origin of the manufacturer and the fulfilment of the decarbonisation strategy of the Czech Republic.”

It adds that despite the potentially higher investment costs per power unit, ranging from CZK100m (S4.4m) to CZK165m, “the total nominal investment in SMRs will be significantly lower than for large-scale reactors”. This will “make investment into nuclear in the form of SMRs accessible to a wider range of stakeholders, including private capital involvement”.

Although SMR technology has now been included in the Czech State Energy Policy “some uncertainties persist today with potentially significant implications for the future of the energy sector in the Czech Republic and the possible role of SMRs”. These include the European Union electricity market reform, international efforts to harmonise SMR legislation, and the government‘s consideration of the nationalisation of energy assets. “For this reason, there are tasks… that will have to be resolved in cooperation with all stakeholders on an ongoing basis… especially by finding a consensus on how to finance and publicly support the construction of SMRs for selected investor models.

The report says that,without the participation of the State, it will not be possible to use the maximum potential of SMRs in the Czech Republic, which could be important in terms of ensuring energy security. “The State must guarantee national security in the context of SMRs, as it does for large nuclear power plants, in terms of nuclear safety, physical security, radiation protection, personnel and competence or other threats to the public interest through existing and new regulatory and legislative instruments.”

Citing assessments by the Czech Transmission System Operator of resource adequacy to 2040, the report says not even new renewable energy projects together with four new large reactors will cover the needs of the Czech Republic “and up to 3 GWe of additional power will be needed by 2050”. SMRs are a high value-added opportunity for Czech industry and, due to their high expertise requirements, can play an important role in supply chains representing a great export potential. They represent the following opportunities:

Developing a new economic focus: leveraging regulatory and technological expertise and offering it for use in the EU and third countries, creating conditions for Czech companies to join the ecosystem of SMR manufacturers for supply to third countries including a positive impact on the economy for less investment; Maintaining nuclear know-how by becoming a centre of competence - expertise, services and production in the field of SMR - making nuclear education more attractive, localising new science and research projects;Strengthening the Czech Republic’s position in the nuclear energy sector by establishing a partnership with the country of origin of the manufacturer and seizing the opportunity for a long-term partnership;Implementing the Czech Republic’s decarbonisation strategy: accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy and the associated fulfilment of international commitments and related climate targets.

Date: Wednesday, 08 November 2023
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