The agreements cover the overall general framework of the project and its initial phase, including a tender in which ČEZ will have a preferred list of reactor technology suppliers by 2022. The signing of a contract with a supplier is expected in 2024. Construction of the new plant could begin in 2029 and trial operation in 2036.
The state, which holds a 70% stake in ČEZ, last week approved plans to give an interest-free loan for the new plant.
It has also approved a model to buy electricity from the new unit at a determined price, with consumers making up the difference if that price is higher than wholesale market prices.
The plans need approval from the European Commission to ensure they meet EU state aid rules.
A ČEZ spokesperson told NucNet recently that one Generation III+ reactor is planned for the site, with a maximum installed capacity of 1,200 MW. In March, ČEZ filed for permission with the State Office for Nuclear Safety to build up to two new nuclear power plants at Dukovany.
The Czech state has long been in talks with ČEZ about expanding its nuclear fleet, but costs and financing have been sticking points.
ČEZ chief executive Daniel Benes had earlier said the company should have a tender ready by June 2020 and expected offers in 2021 from up to five bidders.
He said market estimates for the new unit’s cost ranged from about $5.9bn to $6.9bn, but a final price would come out of the tender.
There are four Russia-designed VVER-440 reactor units at the Dukovany site and the government has said they should be replaced by new ones in about 20 to 30 years.
However, the spokesperson said the fact that there are four Russian units already in operation at Dukovany will not influence the choice of the technology for the new units.
The spokesperson confirmed that ČEZ has held consultations with possible tender participants and all of them confirmed their interest. They include CGN of China, EDF of France, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, Russia’s Rosatom and US-based Westinghouse.
The current Dukovany units, which were commissioned between 1985-1987, will be taken out of operation between 2045 and 2047 at the latest, which means the original units and the new unit will operate jointly for up to 10 years. The new unit is meant as a partial replacement for current units.
The government is planning for the long-term operation of the existing Dukovany units for up to 60 years. ČEZ recently announced a CZK 55 billion (€2bn) investment in the LTO project. This means annual investments in the modernisation and refurbishment of the existing units will increase from about €56m to up €93 from 2028.
The Czech Republic has six commercially operational reactor units. In addition to the four units at Dukovany, there are two Russian VVER-1000 units at Temelín. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, in 2019 the six units provided about 35% of the country’s electricity production.
In 2014, ČEZ cancelled the tender for construction of two new Temelín units after it failed to get state guarantees for the project.