Ljubljana related

14 Aug 2020, 12:51 PM

STA, 14 August 2020 - Speaking about a potential second nuclear reactor in Krško, Infrastructure Ministry State Secretary Blaž Košorok has told the STA that Slovenia is and will remain a nuclear country. Košorok, who is convinced Slovenia will need the reactor, called for a fact-based debate as opposed to politicking and appeals to emotions.

While the government recently placed a new nuclear reactor in Krško on the list of strategic projects for post-coronacrisis recovery, Košorok said this did not mean a final decision on the project had been made.

"We are talking about some kind of guidelines, but fact is that Slovenia is and will remain a nuclear country. We've been living with this for more than 40 years and will probably continue living with it," said Košorok.

The official, who described nuclear energy as a safe, reliable and long-term source of power, stressed that the 20-year extension of the life-span of what is currently Slovenia's sole nuclear reactor needs to be secured again first after a recent Administrative Court decision that entails a reinstalling of the original 40-year span ending in 2023.

Košorok is confident that the Environment Agency, which needs to okay the extension through an environmental impact assessment, has enough awareness about the importance of nuclear energy for Slovenia.

He stressed that securing the needed facilities for the storage of nuclear waste was a pre-condition for any decision. The investor, state-owned power utility Gen Energija, which manages Slovenia's half of the Krško nuclear power station, will have to be convicting with a serious investment plan and zoning procedures need to start.

Košorok added the investor will have to convince the asset manager, meaning the Slovenia Sovereign Holding, and key stakeholders, with the plan being that a decision on a second reactor be adopted until 2027 approximately.

Broad social consensus will be needed for a new reactor, especially in light of social and economic development, he added. He said some opposition is expected and normal while urging against politicking and for expertise-based debates.

He spoke of a fairly safe situation, pointing to the recent strong earthquake in nearby Zagreb that had no noteworthy effect on the Krško nuclear power plant whatsoever.

Košorok said it was too soon to speak about any technical details. There are a few interested parties, among them Westinghouse, which also built the existing reactor. Concrete decisions will be taken by experts, he added.

Interest in participation in the project was recently also expressed by Croatia, which co-owns the Krško nuclear power plant and has been cooperating with Slovenia in its management.

"There are ups and downs with any contract, a marriage is also a contract-based relationship that has good and bad moments. And I feel the good moments prevailed here," the official commented, welcoming Croatia's initiative while adding this was just one possible scenario.

The project has also drawn attention in other neighbouring countries, including Austria as a country traditionally opposed to nuclear energy. Talks were conducted as the life-span of the current reactor was being extended and Košorok said there had been "no dramatic opposition".

Meanwhile, the official also reflected on other potential energy projects in the country, highlighting the untapped potential in the Central Sava Valley, which he said could accommodate 10 hydro power plants. He said zoning and spatial planing should start immediately.

He moreover lamented the slow progress it the use of wind energy, saying Slovenia was unfortunately at the very tail end in this respect in the EU.

Košorok has a long track record in the energy industry. He headed the state-owned power utility HSE between 2012 and 2016, having before that spent seven years at the helm of the Ljubljana co-generation plant TE-TOL.

More on nuclear power and Slovenia

13 Aug 2020, 20:04 PM

STA, 13 August 2020 - 5G networks and energy investments were at the centre of talks as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Slovenia on Thursday. The countries signed a joint 5G security declaration, with Pompeo saying that the tide was turning against the Chinese Communist Party, which is trying to control people and other economies.

The declaration excludes "untrusted vendors" from 5G networks, Pompeo said as he addressed the press alongside Slovenia's Prime Minister Janez Janša in Bled.

"I know... that Slovenia prides itself on being a science and technology leader, and becoming a 5G clean country, as you're doing today, solidifies that position. The tide is turning against the Chinese Communist Party and its efforts to restrict freedom for all of us."

Meanwhile, Chinese mobile operator Huawei criticised the move by Slovenia, saying that it would not contribute to security of networks or improve cyber security and would in fact have negative consequences of 5G networks introduction in Slovenia.

The Chinese Embassy in Slovenia responded to Pompeo's statements, saying that it was the 21st century and that it was not time any more to instigate ideological clashes.

According to its press release, the US secretary of state was accusing and attacking China and spreading incorrect information. Inciting hatred and encouraging confrontations is not in the line with the spirit of the times, it added.

The embassy said it hoped that the signing was not directed against China. "We expect that Slovenia will meet its commitments and continue to provide an open, fair and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese companies."

The signing was also criticised by the left-leaning opposition Social Democrats (SD) and the Left. The latter warned that the declaration had not been coordinated with the EU, and its MEP Milan Brglez fears it may become legally binding for Slovenia.

The Left meanwhile said that the declaration was a "carte blanche for US control and abuse of ICT for military, economic and political purposes".

The party also said that Pompeo was in Slovenia to lobby on behalf of nuclear power company Westinghouse and the US military industry as Slovenia's government plans EUR 780 million worth of military investments.

While no meetings were scheduled to discuss military investments, Pompeo was seated next to Defence Minister Matej Tonin at the working lunch hosted by President Borut Pahor.

Pompeo did meet with energy executives and Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec, and discussed with Janša what he said was "the enormous potential of next-generation nuclear technology to deliver clean, reliable, diversified energy that will help ensure political independence and economic prosperity for Slovenia and the entire region".

He also tweeted that "energy security and independence require governments to partner with one another, private industry, and civil society to secure a brighter future for all. We welcome Slovenia's leadership on the Three Seas Initiative, and commend its innovation and dedication to clean energy."

At the press conference, Pompeo urged Slovenia to make a "quick commitment" to what he said was an "important partnership" the US is happy to fund, noting that he had announced in February the US would contribute US$1 billion for energy infrastructure in Central Europe as part of the Three Seas Initiative.

Janša in turn said that Slovenia appreciated the "US's proactive approach to energy security in Central Europe, which is reflected in strong support to alliances such as the Three Seas Initiative and the Partnership for Transatlantic Energy Cooperation," adding that Slovenia would strengthen its role in both of these.

Touching on business cooperation, Janša told the press the sides shared the view that there was room to boost trade and investments, also saying that Slovenian IT companies could help in the development of 5G technologies.

The talks also touched on NATO, with Janša saying that Slovenia had in the past months made steps to increase defence spending and meet its obligations toward the alliance, with Pompeo commending the country for its growing commitment to NATO.

Janša and Pompeo also discussed relations with China and Russia, sharing the view that these must be based on strategic interest "of our civilisation, which is based on the values of security, freedom, the rule of law and democracy," according to Janša.

Janša also warned of what he said was a poor level of awareness in the west of the threat of a hybrid attack. "We see the US as the only power of the western civilisation capable of facing this challenging threat... and Slovenia is willing to contribute its efforts toward success."

Pompeo also met President Pahor, who hosted a working lunch. The president expressed great satisfaction with the visit, telling commercial broadcaster Kanal A that Pompeo had told him that he was leaving "Slovenia with the best possible impressions and that he sees great potential for future cooperation between Slovenia and the US".

"It was very important that we did not find a very open, delicate issue that would cause divisions," said Pahor. He feels the countries are the most divided in terms of multilateralism.

"Slovenia is strongly dedicated to the existing political and legal architecture, because being a small country it sees safety in this. This is understandable, being a big country, the US may view this slightly differently."

But in general, the countries have "very, very similar views", said Pahor. "This is good. But above all, it is important that such talks end with mutual agreement that we are friends, that we trust each other and that many more things connect than divide us."

15 Jul 2020, 10:33 AM

STA, 14 July 2020 - Slovenia and Croatia confirmed on Tuesday revised programmes for the decommissioning of the Krško nuclear power station and the storage of radioactive waste, as the ministers in charge of energy chaired a session of the intergovernmental commission on the management of the jointly-owned power station.

The revised programmes had previously been confirmed by the Slovenian government and the Croatian parliament and reflect the decision to extend operation of the plant by 20 years beyond its originally planned shutdown in 2023, and the decision that each country will build its own radwaste repository.

Vrbina, where Slovenia's share of the waste will be stored

"I am very satisfied that after a long time the two countries have finally implemented the commitment from the intergovernmental programme and confirmed the third revision... The programmes are crucial for the preservation of excellent and safe operations" of the power station, Slovenian Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec was quoted as saying.

Croatian Energy Minister Tomislav Ćorić likewise expressed satisfaction. "I'm glad we have successfully brought this long process to a conclusion," he said according to the Slovenian Infrastructure Ministry.

The next session of the intergovernmental commission is scheduled to take place in Slovenia in the first half of 2021.

Slovenia plans to store its portion of nuclear waste in Vrbina, close to the power station, a project which is already well under way. Croatia plans to build a repository in Čerkezovac, close to the border with Bosnia-Herzegovina, by 2024.

03 Mar 2020, 10:20 AM

STA, 27 February 2020 - The outgoing government endorsed on Thursday the National Energy and Climate Plan, a set of energy policy and climate change mitigation measures until 2030. The document, which will now be sent to Brussels, is "realistically ambitious", said Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek.

The plan, which was revised after its draft was met with criticism from both industry and environmental NGOs, will serve as the basis for Slovenia's long-term climate strategy.

The government called it "a key step towards a climate-neutral Slovenia until 2050" on Twitter today.

Bratušek told the press after today's cabinet session that the goal was to cut overall greenhouse gas emissions by 36%, improve energy efficiency by at least 35% and have at least 27% of energy come from renewable energy sources.

The outgoing minister announced that investment into research and development would reach 3% of GDP, of which 1% would be public funds.

These are the minimal goals that Slovenia has to meet until 2030 if it is to avoid sanctions, Bratušek said, adding that the document adopted today also clearly showed how these goals would be achieved.

If Slovenia fails to raise its share of renewable energy to 25%, it will have to pay a fine of some EUR 10 million as early as next year.

The plan preserves the country's nuclear power facilities in the current size although with less use of fossil fuels and more renewable energy sources, in particular solar and wind, and adds waste co-incineration.

Following criticism by the state-owned power utility HSE and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) that the draft plan did not involve new hydro plants on the central Sava river, the final version includes plans for further use of hydro energy.

Analyses of alternatives to hydro and the role of hydro energy use in meeting Slovenia's goal of becoming climate neural by 2050 are also planned.

As for a new reactor at the Krško Nuclear Power Station (NEK), the document says that a decision on a potential construction should be made by 2027 at the latest.

A decision will also have to be made on the extension of the lifespan for the existing reactor, which expires in 2023. "This is why we must make sure that it will be able to function by 2043 as planned," Bratušek said.

Coal use has not been tackled yet and is to be resolved in Slovenia's Energy Concept until 2060.

Slovenia was obligated to adopt the Energy and Climate Plan and forward it to the European Commission under the EU regulation on the governance of the energy union and climate action if it wants to draw cohesion funds in 2021-2027.

The GZS welcomed the new version of the plan yesterday, but still voiced some concerns, especially regarding GDP growth estimates. The GZS believes economic growth is underestimated in the document and subsequently also the total energy consumption.

A 30% share of renewable energy sources is still beyond reach for industry as there are no assurances that green sources of energy will be available, said the GZS, which also called for a compensation scheme for indirect emissions, which all EU countries bar Slovenia and Romania have.

16 Dec 2019, 14:05 PM

STA, 16 December 2019 - The government appears prepared to making construction of a new nuclear reactor a cornerstone of Slovenia's plans to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 in line with EU goals. Prime Minister Marjan Šarec told parliament on Monday that without unit two at the Krško nuclear power station, the goal would not be achieved.

"The fact is ... that if we don't build a second reactor at the nuclear power station and close coal-fired power stations, we will not achieve environmental goals," Šarec said during questions time. "Things are very simple or very complicated, depending how you look at it."

In summer, Šarec re-ignited a long-simmering debate about the replacement of the existing reactor at Krško, which is currently slated for closure in 2043 but whose useful life could yet be extended.

At the recent EU summit he reiterated the commitment to carbon neutrality and said achieving it would require preserving nuclear and abandoning coal; Slovenia has only one coal-fired power station, in Šoštanj, and a backup gas-fired power station in Brestanica.

The dilemma whether or not Slovenia should go for nuclear is expected to be resolved in the long-term climate strategy until 2050 and the national energy concept, key documents laying out Slovenia's energy future, which have both been delayed for years.

Šarec defended the delay today saying that it was "impossible to change in a year what had not even been under consideration for twenty years before."

All our stories on nuclear power in Slovenia are here

15 Oct 2019, 13:41 PM

STA, 14 October 2019 - Slovenia met 52% of its energy needs by own sources of energy in 2018. Of the 148,000 terajoules (TJ)) in total energy production, the Krško Nuclear Power Plant (NEK) accounted for 42%.

Renewable sources of energy, including hydro-power, contributed 32% to the output and coal 25%. Other sources represented less than 0.5%, the Statistic Office reported.

Petroleum products represented a third of energy supply (34%), with nuclear accounting for 22%, renewable sources (including hydro energy) for 17%, coal for 16% and natural gas for 11%.

surs energy slovenia october 2019.png

Final energy consumption totalled 211,000 TJ, 40% of which was consumed in the transport sector, 27% in manufacturing and construction, 21% by households and 12% by other consumers, including agriculture.

Almost half of the final consumption was covered by petroleum products (47%), followed by electricity (24%), renewable energy (13%), natural gas (12%), heat (3%) and solid fuels (1%).

Slovenian households consumed 44,600 TJ of energy, by far the largest share (61%) for home heating. A further 17% was consumed for each lighting and electrical appliances and water heating, 4% for cooking and less than 1% for cooling.

Households depended on wood fuels for 39% of their consumption, electricity for 27%, natural gas for 10%, extra light heating oil for 9%, district heating for 7%.

They got 3% of their sources from ambient heat, obtained by means of heat pumps, and as much from liquefied petroleum, and only 1% from solar energy.

More details on this data can be found here

20 Sep 2019, 11:47 AM

STA, 19 September 2019 - The Court of Audit has issued a rebuke of consecutive Slovenian governments after determining that strategic planning regarding the exploitation of nuclear energy at the Krško Nuclear Power Plant (NEK) had left the NEK owner in limbo about the future of nuclear energy in the country.

The auditors examined government strategic planning between 2006 and 2016 and determined that strategic documents had been ignored on several occasions and new ones drawn up in disregard of previous commitments or deadlines.

For example, the decision to build a second unit at NEK was made by the government in 2006, but it took years before it ever made it into downstream strategic and operational programmes.

And in 2014 the government started drafting a new national energy programme, but it was not adopted in 2014 or until the extended deadline of 30 June 2016. In fact, it has not been adopted yet, the deadline having been pushed forward several times.

As a result, Gen Energija, the state-owned company which manages the Krško power station, was "left in uncertainty as to whether construction of the second unit at NEK will be possible", the court said in a decision released on Thursday.

The court also criticises Slovenian Sovereign Holding (SSH) for not alerting the government to the potential hazards of not giving Gen Energija clearer guidance.

Gen Energija, meanwhile, has been criticised for commissioning, between 2007 and 2016, as many as 122 studies concerning the second unit, half of which were not subject to public calls for bids.

This constitutes violation of public procurement rules and risks curtailing competition between bidders, the auditors said.

Despite the shortcomings, the Court of Audit stopped short of issuing an adverse opinion.

Instead, it issued a set of recommendations on how Gen Energija should improve its operations while requesting corrective measures from the government, Infrastructure Ministry, SSH and Gen Energija.

The Infrastructure Ministry sees the report as a call to all parties to act in a coordinated and prudent manner in planning the long-term use of nuclear energy.

It stressed that the country's energy concept was already in the making and should be debated by the government in the second half of 2020.

But the ministry also noted the report covered 2006-2016, whereas the new infrastructure minister had to first deal with delays in drafting several strategic documents, including the energy concept but also the National Energy and Climate Plan, when taking the office over a year ago.

Gen Energija interpreted the report as a call for a comprehensive and long-term planning of energy production. Changes are already under way, it added.

"Gen Energija has started introducing changes in the areas where the need arose for systematic improvements already during the audit, and we will report to the Court of Audit on the implementation of the remedy measures," the company said on its web site.

22 Aug 2019, 17:26 PM

STA, 22 August 2019 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec visited Slovenia's sole nuclear power plant in Krško on Thursday, calling for "investing all our efforts to build a second reactor" to replace the current one beyond 2043.

 "We need to invest all our efforts in this and set out to build a second reactor because in the future we will need ever more electric power, in particular if we want to be a development-oriented country," Šarec said during a visit to the Krško Nuclear Power Plant (NEK).

"In light of the changes in the field of energy and a rethink about the future sources of energy, a decision will have to be made soon what direction Slovenia wants to take," Šarec said.

"With the power station's management we have established that Slovenia is definitely a nuclear country considering that NEK generates a significant portion of our electricity, and we'd soon feel its loss," the prime minister added.

The existing reactor is slated for closure in 2043, by roughly which time the Šoštanj coal-fired power station TEŠ will have ceased to operate, so Šarec believes Slovenia needs to decide what energy policy it will pursue.

"If we don't want wind farms or thermal plants and other sources of energy, we'll soon find that there's nowhere we can get energy from," said Šarec, calling for more effort to attain energy self-sufficiency.

The rate of unscheduled outages of NEK since 1983 has been reduced to virtually zero and the power station has been performing successfully, Šarec said. "Since becoming operational, the amount of energy it supplies has increased equal to an output of almost ten hydro power plants."

Šarec spoke to reporters after meeting NEK CEO Stane Rožman and Martin Novšak, the CEO of Gen Energija, the state-owned company that owns the Slovenian half of NEK. The pair were happy with the talks.

"I believe we have many opportunities to build a bright carbon-low future," Novšak commented, with Rožman adding that they had asked Šarec for his support in principle for their plans.

They also discussed the national climate and energy plan whose draft does not discuss nuclear energy, although the prime minister believes it should.

"I expect professionals to decide in the end because decision-making is too often left to those who are driven by emotions rather than by expertise," said Šarec, who sees positive effects of nuclear energy outweighing negative ones.

A decision on potential construction of a new reactor should be taken as soon as possible because it would take at least a decade from the time the decision is taken to when the reactor is built.

Gen Energija has conducted a number of studies to prove that the location and technology is right, while permits are still pending, and so is the project's zoning.

"There's also tenders, development permits, [planning] operation and decommissioning," said Novšak, who would like the national climate and energy plan to state clearly that the country would keep nuclear energy in the future.

Šarec also faced questions about the difficulties surrounding major infrastructure projects in Slovenia, admitting that TEŠ 6 generator was a "sad story", but would not speculate on who was responsible.

The biggest problem is the spatial planning of such projects, and there is the question of legislation. "Once we don't have a referendum on each thing because of everyone who has five minutes to spare, things will go in the right direction," he said.

The prime minister has not yet tested coalition support for a second nuclear reactor and would not speculate whether other countries could be involved in its construction and financing. "I will make the effort though that Slovenia remain independent energy-wise," he said.

Owned jointly by Slovenia and Croatia, the plant began operating at full capacity in August 1982, launching commercial operation in January 1983.

The foundation stone for the plant was laid in 1974 and construction started a year later. After the first phase of trial operation in May 1981, the plant transmitted first kilowatts of power into the national grid in October that year.

05 Jun 2019, 15:42 PM

STA, 5 June 2019 - The United States is keen on selling Slovenia technology for small modular nuclear reactors, US Energy Secretary Rick Perry said Wednesday as he made a stop in Slovenia for a summit of the Three Seas Initiative.

Related: Slovenia Hosts Three Seas Initiative Summit Wed, Thu (Background)

Slovenia is "an excellent potential market for this game-changing technology," said Perry. Asked why Slovenia, which is considering building a second reactor in Krško, should choose a US-made reactor over designs from France, China or Russia, Perry said "US nuclear technology is the best in the world" and "Westinghouse makes the best reactors in the world."

Perry noted that since the existing reactor in Krško had been build, the technology had changed, while adding that this was not only about the best technology but also about safety and non-proliferation.

"We want to be your partner. Slovenia may not show up on everybody's radar screen as the country you want to do business in, but for the United States it is an important country," he said, noting that the expansion of the Krško plant was "an opportunity for the US and US companies".

Perry also said that next month the first US-EU forum on small modular nuclear reactors will take place in Brussels and it will be a great opportunity "for the region to come together to hear some exciting things that are going on in the small modular reactor world."

Both President Borut Pahor and Prime Minister Marjan Šarec have been invited to the conference in bilateral talks earlier today and they are "both very interested," he said.

Pahor's office said the talks revolved around diversification of energy sources, which both said were important, while also highlighting the need for protecting the environment.

Šarec meanwhile stressed that Slovenia and the US were strategic partners which should continue deepening political, economic and security ties.

Cooperation in energy with the aim of providing "safe, sustainable and competitive energy" was also highlighted by Šarec's office, which quoted the prime minister as saying that nuclear energy was important for reliable energy supply in Slovenia.

Another major US interest, not just in the Three Seas region but also in Europe in general, is to export liquefied natural gas (LNG), which Perry framed as Europe's change to diversify energy sources and routes, and reduce its dependence on Russia.

As Perry pointed out, the US made 40 shipments of LNG to Europe in the first quarter alone, which is "an astonishing number". But the availability of US gas is also pushing down global prices, which is why the notion that US LNG cannot compete with Russian gas is not true.

He pointed out that the US is not saying Europe had to buy its gas, as countries such as Qatar and Australia can also act as suppliers. "The multiple supplier formula is very good for Europe," he said.

Another component of the US energy policy on Europe is opposition to North Stream 2, a new proposed gas pipeline from Russia into Europe.

The Trump administration is considering imposing sanctions on companies behind the project, which Perry confirmed was an option. But he was also quick to point out there is opposition to the project in Europe as well, since many countries "do not want to rely on a single source of fuel".

23 Aug 2018, 09:18 AM

STA, 23 August 2018 - In a bid to make Slovenia's energy sector more efficient, the emerging government coalition will promote renewable sources of energy, chiefly water energy on the Sava river. Its environmental policy will, meanwhile, seek to keep Slovenia green but also attractive to sustainable investors. A green tax reform is also planned. 

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