EU Enlargement Comes with More Nuclear Power

Berlin, 28.04.2004

Five of the ten states that will accede to the European Union (EU) on May 1 use nuclear power. This has been pointed out by the German Atomic Forum in view of the occasion. Some of the countries concerned are highly dependent on nuclear power because they have no or only little energy resources of their own. This is why all five countries have declared that they intend to maintain their nuclear competence both in the medium and the long term.

At present, a total of 19 reactors - largely of Soviet design - are operated in Lithuania, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. The Russian-designed units originally had sometimes considerable safety deficiencies. With wide international support - also by German industry and experts - far-reaching programmes to modernise these units have been undertaken since 1992 in order to upgrade them to a level of safety that corresponds with the international level for reactors of the same generation.

During the negotiations with the candidate countries, the European Commission rejected the longer-term operation of certain plants. For example, the EU has insisted that both units of Lithuania`s only nuclear power plant at Ignalina be closed down in 2005 and 2009, respectively. In Lithuania, the share of nuclear power in electricity production is presently around 81 percent. The Lithuanian parliament is therefore discussing whether it might not be possible to push through a prolongation of the operating times in renewed talks with the EU as otherwise unbearable loads on the country`s economy would have to be feared. In addition, a new nuclear power plant is planned as a replacement.

In the Slovak Republic, too, two reactors are to be shut down on the insistence of the EU in 2006 and 2009, respectively. However, the Slovak Republic still has a further four reactors in operation, and another two are under construction.

Slovenia obtains 39 percent of its electricity from the Krsko nuclear power plant, which the country operates jointly with its neighbour Croatia.

The Czech Republic disposes of a total of six reactors. The Temelin nuclear power plant has only recently begun operation of its two units. Construction of the two Russian-type pressurised water reactors had already started before the Iron Curtain fell. During the further course, however, numerous safety-related improvements were made - above all by Western companies.

Hungary covers about 33 percent of its electricity demand with nuclear power. The Paks nuclear power plant has four units that have also undergone comprehensive technical upgrading.

With the accession of the new states, the number of nuclear-power-plant-operating countries in the EU rises from so far eight to 13. This means that nuclear power will continue to be one of the most important electricity sources within the Union. In the EU of 15, the share of nuclear power in total electricity generation was around 35 percent in 2003. Each year, the use of nuclear power plants in the present 15 EU countries has saved the atmosphere about 400 million tons of CO2 emissions. This almost corresponds to the total annual CO2emissions of all private motorcars in these countries.

The German Atomic Forum considers the use of nuclear power as one of the most effective and economical methods to promote climate protection and at the same time increase supply safety. This is particularly relevant against the background of the expected increase in the dependency of the European Union on energy imports. The Green Paper issued by the European Commission on energy supply safety and the latest statement of the European Economic and Social Committee on nuclear power share this view.

Overview of nuclear power use (as at 2003) in the new member countries acceding on May 1, 2004:

 Number of NPP units  Design electrical rating (gross)
 Electricity produced from nuclear power
 Share of nuclear power
 Litauen  2  2.600  15,5  80,6
 Slowakische Republik  6  2.640  18,0  57,8
 Slowenien  1  707  5,3  39,0
  Tschechische Republik  6  3.744  25,9  30,5
Ungarn 4 1.866 11,0 32,7

Source: atw, TETRA Energie

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