“Next Fairy Tale” – Many question marks in the Czech Republic’s mini-nuclear plans

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The Czech Republic wants to produce more nuclear energy and relies on mini-nuclear power stations, which are said to be more efficient and safer. For risk researcher Raphael Zimmerl of the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences in Vienna, both are highly questionable: More factories mean more risk and there would be more nuclear waste per unit of energy generated. Upper Austria’s environmental council, Stefan Kaineder (Greens), is locating “the next fairytale of e-business” after the “march” of Russian gas as a bridging technology.

Energy supplier CEZ, in which the Czech state has a majority stake, is planning a pilot project at the site of the existing nuclear power plant in Temelin. In 2023, two or three other locations should be chosen and a feasibility study drawn up for them, Upper Austrian anti-nuclear officer Dalibor Strasky said at a press conference Tuesday in Linz. Tusimice, Prunérov, Ledvice, Porici and Detmarovice are currently being discussed – all sites of existing coal-fired power stations that are to be replaced by small nuclear power plants in the medium term and whose infrastructure one would like to use. Most of these places are along the state border with Poland and Germany.

future of nuclear energy?
“Small Modular Reactors” (SMR), small, modular reactors, are the names of the mini nuclear power plants in which some see the future of nuclear energy. According to Zimmerl, there is still no real definition of what an SMR is. Nuclear power plants are usually meant with an electrical capacity of less than 300 megawatts (MWe) – for comparison, the reactors at Dukovany have about 500 MWe, so the SMRs are not that “mini” either.

No state has yet a set of rules that is a prerequisite for implementation. Technically, there are very different concepts, which are usually a long way from a prototype, Zimmerl said. For example, the Molton salt reactor used thorium as a fuel instead of uranium and molten salt as a coolant instead of water. There are huge problems with corrosion here. Small modular pressurized water reactors, which should also be central to the Czech Republic, are currently the most realistic concept.

“No climate saver”
The supporters hope that the plants will be more economical and safer because they are smaller. But that’s exactly what seems highly questionable: there are few test systems, far too little data and – due to, for example, corrosion problems – major obstacles to implementation, says Zimmerl. In addition, smaller power stations do not necessarily mean a lower risk of accidents. The greater number of reactors required then even increases the susceptibility to errors. Even with 300 MWe one cannot speak of a “small radioactive inventory”. In addition, less powerful plants would produce more nuclear waste per unit of energy generated. His conclusion: The small reactors are “in no way to be regarded as climate savers” and, moreover, major delays in implementation are to be expected.

Fuel rods from Russia
Kaineder warned of new dependence: currently 40 percent of nuclear fuel rods in European nuclear power plants come from Russia or Kazakhstan. Moreover, with a larger number of reactors, the question arises of how to protect them, he said, referring to Ukraine’s controversial Zaporizhzhya power plant.

Source: Krone

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