Homepage News J. Perlík: The entire nuclear power engineering is, by its nature, a highly innovative field

J. Perlík: The entire nuclear power engineering is, by its nature, a highly innovative field

Date: 31. 10. 2017

Source: Technický týdeník

After the October elections, the Czech Republic shall have a new Chamber of Deputies and a new goverment. One of their duties will be making a progress in the construction of new reactors and increasing the share of nuclear power in the national energy mix.

We asked Mr. Josef Perlík, the chairman of the board and the general director of ŠKODA JS a.s.: "as a general director of the most significant Czech company in the field, what steps and decisions do you think the new administration should take within the four-year horizon? Is the existing legislation sufficient, or do you feel the absence of some regulations currently responding to the development of the field in the world?

The upcoming period will be crucial in terms of meeting the approved key documents - the updated State Energy Policy and the National Action Plan for the Nuclear Energy Development. If we want the new resources to be ready at the end of the existing blocks´ lifetime, the works have to be launched now. Therefore, it is crucial to make the decision on the supplier model quickly, to select the supplier and to decide on the construction financing method which seems to be related to the two preceding steps. From the legislation point of view, the key modification in the Building Act has already been implemented, including the approval of the EIA amendment. At this moment, we do not feel any legislative insufficiency or absence of the necessary standards or regulations.

In your speeches on various forums you have repeatedly stressed the need for active participation of the domestic energy engineering and construction industry in the further construction of nuclear blocks in the Czech Republic. Regardless of the final decision on the contractor and the financing method: is it real that the share of supplies from Czech firms exceeds 70-75%? Does the domestic design and production base have adequate technical equipment and human resources?

Nuclear power is a high-tech industry for the construction and development of which the country must have certain prerequisites. The Czech Republic belongs to those countries that have them all. We have production and design capacities. We have a continuous tradition that began together with the industry and evolved with the technical, managerial and scientific development of the field. We have a skilled workforce that has experience in building new resources and maintaining and upgrading the existing capacities. We have constantly been preparing new professionals. The competent offer guarantees that Czech companies in the field will be very important for the project realization. It is too soon to talk about a specific percentage share, however, we are convinced that it can actually reach the volume you have mentioned, despite the recent problems of some companies. Nevertheless, these problems are not crucial in terms of the volume of the Czech industry's total participation in the possible construction of a new nuclear resource in the Czech Republic.

What do you mean?

It is despicable, purposeful and almost offensive to say that the problems of some companies in the industry mean that the Czech industry is not able to build a new nuclear source or to participate in the above-mentioned scope on such a construction. It ignores dozens of other firms that are significant in the industry and still able to make a major contribution to such a project, starting with engineering and ending with technological supplies. It ignores the fact that the potential volume that these companies would provide is not essential in the overall volume. It ignores the fact that, with full participation of the Czech industry, we are talking about hundreds of billions of Czech crowns, where two or three entities are "just a small" part of this whole. It ignores the fact that the know-how represented by these companies may in the meantime be transferred elsewhere, and this partial ability to participate in the project in the given range can be maintained. From the point of view of the industry, it is a dangerous trend that must be stopped. I cannot imagine that without the construction of a new nuclear power source in the Czech Republic.

When we talked shortly after the premature termination of the international tender for the completion of the Dukovany and Temelín NPPs, you pointed out that the leading domestic firms and potential suppliers (like ŠKODA JS) must continue to supply both for domestic nuclear units and for power plants abroad, to maintain the continuity of qualification and the potential to meet the changing demands of new projects and customers. Three years later I am asking: have you succeeded?

I can say that in the period from 2014, significant Czech entities and potential suppliers (same as ŠKODA JS) have continued to supply domestic units and power plants abroad, and thus they have retained (so far) the continuity of skills and potential and the ability to fulfill changing and growing requirements of new projects and customers. Some companies have ceased working in the industry, but the majority of the potential suppliers is still ready for a new challenge. It is clear, however, that only export and participation in projects abroad will not guarantee their future and the future of the branch as such in the Czech Republic. The range of opportunities is limited. It is not long-lasting and, together with the declining level of business opportunities in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, it can be fatal for the future of the industry. In other words, and repeatedly: if we want to keep the Czech nuclear power industry in our own hands, we have to build.

The renaissance of nuclear power in the Czech Republic does not only mean securing the future energy needs of the country, but also a lot of immediate economic effects, higher employment, higher qualification of the participating workers and the subsequent development of the regions. From your point of view, is there any other realistically feasible and safe solution of Czech energy problems in the medium and long term?

According to some studies, one job directly in the preparation and construction of new nuclear sources generates other 7-8 jobs in related fields. These are not only direct suppliers but it is also about the broader infrastructure of the project, country and region. It is about transport, trade and services, as well as cultural and sports facilities. As far as the industry is concerned, the current projects are mostly international, therefore references from participation in construction of new domestic resources would be significant for Czech companies for their future perspective in decades. More than half of the electricity generated in the Czech Republic is provided by thermal power plants. The largest ones will end their operation between 2025 and 2040. The share of coal in energy production should, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, be 11-20% after 2040, the share of natural gas 5-15%. Optimistic forecasts speak of an 18-25% share of alternative sources. The rest of the energy mix must therefore be covered by the core. There is no other option.

There is no doubt that nuclear power is one of the current high-tech industries. Can the Czech energy and engineering companies rely on cooperation with the local research? Or do you need to travel abroad for the best knowledge and solutions?

The entire nuclear power industry is in principal very innovative. With a little exaggeration, we can say that no project has been repeated here. To stay on top, we need to follow developments and apply the latest knowledge and technology in our work. There were a number of milestones between the first deliveries for the Czechoslovak power plant A1 and today's sophisticated III + generation units, in production of which we are involved. We have the advantage in the creative potential of our company, in the qualification structure and experience of our employees, in daily working with other key players in the field. Our partnerships with the University of West Bohemia, Czech Technical University and other universities is mutually very beneficial. Not only do we prepare future generations of our employees, but we also work together to solve research tasks and to apply their outputs in the practice of the company. We are in contact with foreign experts not only when working on specific projects, but also at a number of international conferences.

The research and development in nuclear branch are aimed not only at the complex management of the generation III + and IV reactors, but also at the development and implementation of so-called small nuclear resources (SMR). Is this impulse interesting for ŠKODA JS in terms of production and assembly?

Definitely yes. We are closely monitoring the development in this field in the world, and we are involved in the work of the team at ÚJV Řež (Nuclear Research Institute) in the Czech Republic. I am convinced that once the development and practical utilization of SMR reaches the industrial stage, ŠKODA JS will be ready to participate in key technology deliveries or to take on the role of the EPC supplier.

"Nuclear power is a high-tech industry for the construction and development of which the country must have certain prerequisites. The Czech Republic belongs to those countries that have them all"