STA, 19 July 2021 - The Infrastructure Ministry has issued an energy permit for the construction of the second unit at the Krško nuclear power station, a step that allows permitting procedures to begin and comes a week after the national climate strategy enshrined nuclear as a long-term energy option. The project will be managed by the state-owned Gen Energija.
"The energy permit kick-starts the broadest possible public debate, not just at the expert level but also among the people," Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec told the press on Monday, adding that this did not mark the final decision on the investment, it is merely the first step.
Only after a broad social consensus is reached, procedures such as siting, the acquisition of a building permit, selection of contractor and construction itself will begin.
Project details such as estimated price, time frame or selection of technology have not been determined yet, nor has the precise location.
Vrtovec said the energy permit would serve as the basis for the verification of environmental, spatial, technical and economic parameters in the form of a national spatial plan, environmental impact assessment, cross-border impact assessment, building permit acquisition, selection of supplier and financing.
He said the plan was to build a 1.1 GW unit with an estimated production of 9,000 GW of electricity per year and a life span of sixty years.
The best available technology at the time of tendering will be used. According to Gen Energija director general Martin Novšak, for now the best and safest technology is a pressurised water reactor of the kind currently in use in Krško.
New generations of nuclear reactors are under development, including small modular reactors, but the technology has not hit the market yet.
Novšak said the second unit was "necessary and technologically feasible" and provided the answer to the energy trilemma - the balance of reliability of supply, environmental acceptability and economics. The company has enough experience to manage the project economically and transparently.
The investment would be financed with a combination of own sources, potentially with the help of co-investors and even with EU funds, according to him.
Novšak said the optimistic scenario was to arrive at a final decision in five years, whereupon it would take five years to complete construction. "This is a really ambitious goal," he said.
President Borut Pahor recently mentioned that a major decision such as this should be put to a referendum. Vrtovec said there was "no hurry" to do that, but if the people want a referendum "I see no serious problem why the people should not express their opinion."
Judging by good experience with the original power station, Vrtovec expects that the people will support the project.
As for the sentiment in neighbouring countries - Austria is a staunch opponent of nuclear and some stakeholders in Italy have expressed apprehension - Vrtovec said their positions were clear, but "every country secures its own energy mix".
Given that Slovenia plans to abandon coal by 2033, he does not imagine the country could secure energy independence only with alternative energy sources, without nuclear.
Slovenia's current nuclear installation, launched in 1983, has a permit to operate until 2023 but a 20-year extension has already been requested and is now the subject of various assessment procedures.
There is cross-partisan support for nuclear energy in the country and the plant has a flawless safety record.