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29. 5. 2009 10:38

Jan Fischer: Energy industry is one of the principal priorities not only of the Czech presidency

Speech by the Prime Minister Jan Fischer at the European Nuclear Energy Forum (ENEF)

I am honoured to have an opportunity to open this 4th European Nuclear Energy Forum which is organized in Prague for the second time. I thank the European Commission and in particular the Chairman of the European Commission José Barroso, the Prime Minister of Slovak Republic Robert Fico and my predecessor in the position of the Prime Minister, Mirek Topolánek for establishing that platform. The European Union undoubtedly needs space for professional and unbiased debate on the nuclear energy.

The energy industry is one of priorities not only of the Czech presidency to the EU. The French presidency accomplished works on the climatic package. Our presidency deals in particular with the energy security and the objective of the Swedish presidency is to enhance the energy efficiency. Nuclear energy is connected with all those areas. It is a resource which does not produce emissions, which reduce our energy dependence and it is also a very effective resource.

Really, if we want to combine the climate protection with ensuring reliable and cheap energy, we cannot exclude nuclear energy. Such a debate must be pragmatic and not to be encumbered by unnecessary ideology. Just those three previous forums, which were organized alternately in Bratislava and Prague, showed that such a rational debate bore fruit.

Organization of these forums is a result of certain change in attitudes to nuclear energy in the European Union. The debate on the nuclear energy is not a taboo any longer. On the other hand, it is still rather a verbal renaissance. More nuclear reactors are still laying up in Europe in comparison with those that are built. Nuclear power stations are building only in France and Finland, in fact. But many other countries are considering construction of nuclear power stations, by the way in the Czech Republic and even more progress in planning has been reached in Slovakia. Also these forums may serve for passing from words to actions.

It will be decisions at the EU level which will play a crucial role. The European Union, which has an ambition to be a world leader in emission reduction, included the nuclear energy among resources which are expected to be used in the sphere of the climate protection. Now it is an issue of particular action plans which would be focused on the time period beyond the year 2020 and which would promote the construction of nuclear power stations as means for achieving low-emission energy industry. The new European Commission will have a unique opportunity to promote construction of new nuclear resources in the EU countries, and to establish a transparent regulatory-legal framework for the nuclear energy in a close cooperation with member countries and the energy industry.

As far as the Czech Republic is concerned, the nuclear energy industry has a great potential for its development and a full support of the public and politicians. An important step in the conceptual sphere was the report worked out in the last year by the special independent energy commission headed by the Chairman of the Czech Academy of Science. The commission came to a conclusion that it was necessary for the Czech Republic to count on the nuclear energy even in the future, and it recommended the Czech government not to a priori restrict any of fuel resources. It is anticipated in the conclusions that also the Czech Republic, which is an electricity exporter, will suffer from its shortage after 2015. The current economy crisis may reduce the growth of electricity consumption for a short time; nevertheless it is necessary to expect the return to pre-crisis trends from the long-term point of view.

The nuclear energy covers nearly one third of the total electricity production nowadays. The assessment of impacts of the construction of two blocks of the nuclear power station on environment is currently being carried out. It is just a technical step, of course, which precedes a political decision on further construction of nuclear power station in the Czech Republic that will be made by the next government. Similarly, the decision-making process is being carried out on construction in other countries of the EU. It is important for the licence-granting process not to pose problems for business activities in Europe. It is necessary for this process to be done transparently, smoothly and in compliance with the deadlines set, so as it would not become a barrier for the nuclear power station development in Europe.

There is not much time for taking a decision. Construction of new nuclear power station is a long-distance run, and Europe feels still stronger shortage of energy resources. If the further phase of construction of the Temelín nuclear power station starts in 2013, the start-up of its operation is possible to expect round 2020. It means five years after the Czech Republic becomes dependent on the electricity imports. And I am speaking only about construction of two nuclear blocks and two blocks which are already in operation. The construction of a completely new power station would require more time; about 10 or 5 years.

Nuclear energy industry has also its economic dimension. New constructions represent great investments. Such investments may become a significant impulse both for economy and employment from the point of view of current financial crisis; nevertheless, investments in infrastructure would bring economic effects for tens of years.

The nuclear energy is the only one possibility for the Czech Republic how to meet objectives of the European Union in the sphere of climate protection. Unlike other countries, our renewable resource potential is not very great. Use of water energy has already reached its maximum, in fact. There are not good conditions for the construction of wind power plants in our country both from the point of view of wind intensity and sufficient distance from settlements. We cannot afford to use biomass to a great extent either, because of its low energy efficiency and limited extent of arable land.

Therefore the nuclear energy industry is the only alternative to coal and gas, and a 2000 MW nuclear power station would save 80 000 000 tons of greenhouse gases in ten years in comparison with gas power station, or 160 000 000 tons of CO2 in comparison with coal power station.

I am convinced that advantages of the nuclear energy from the point of view of security and climate protection are absolutely obvious. They are issues of operation security and nuclear waste treatment which are necessary to be solved. Therefore I am glad that both opportunities and risks of nuclear energy are openly debated at this forum.

In the conclusion allow me to revert to the European dimension of our discussion – this fourth session of the European Nuclear Forum should be in particular focused on the future and it should prepare clear message for the new European Parliament and the European Commission. It is important for the ENEF, in close cooperation with the European Commission, to give the process of nuclear renaissance not only a vision, but also a specific strategy for the nuclear energy future in Europe. Previous three European Nuclear Energy Forums have reached certain progress and I believe that we will succeed in pushing things closer to their implementation. I wish your discussion success. Thank you for your attention.

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