The Czech share in new nuclear sources is important

18. 6. 2020

(Source: Euro) If we are talking about the Czech share in construction, we are also talking about the Czech share in the operation and maintenance of new units. And that is not a negligible item, says František Krček, General Director of ŠKODA JS.

František Krček

According to František Krček, General Director of ŠKODA JS, the current state of preparations for the construction of a new nuclear source in the Czech Republic is no longer a question whether to build it or not, but how and under what conditions.

Your focus on Russian design reactors, generally referred to as VVER, can be clearly seen in your references. Entities interested in building a new nuclear power plant will offer various types of reactors. Will you not be disadvantaged in the tender by this one-sided orientation?

It is true that we have the greatest experience with VVER 440 and 1000 reactors, but we are certainly not a company of one design. We started with our own reactor for the A1 Jaslovské Bohunice power plant. In the 70s to 90s, we focused on VVER reactors and equipment, of which we produced 24 sets. Power plants with these reactors are still our main customers in the fields of engineering, production and service. However, we also supplied the only school reactor in the Czech Republic, VR 1 Vrabec (Sparrow) for the Czech Technical University, in recent years we have been supplying components for atypical research reactors to Austria, Kazakhstan or Belgium.

During the 25 years of our operation in the field of PWR and BWR reactors, which began

In the 1990s, we have built a reputation as a reliable and flexible supplier. For example, we supplied BWR reactor internals for the Forsmark nuclear power plant in Sweden, main flange joint nut tensioner for GE for the Tianwan nuclear power plant, we cooperated with Westinghouse in the area of components for fuel assemblies. For French EPR reactors, we supplied reactor internals for the Olkiluoto NPP in Finland and the Taishan NPP in China, and at present we produce another two sets of internals for Framatome, where the final user will be the British Hinkley Point power plant. For Électricité de France (EDF) we supplied spent fuel handling machine for the newly built Unit 3 of the EPR-type nuclear power plant in Flamanville, France. The complete equipment was handed over to the customer in 2017 and the scope of delivery included basic and detailed design, production, installation on site and commissioning.

So you are basically able to work with any tender winner?

Yes. I think that the above list of projects beyond the VVER technology clearly demonstrates the ability of ŠKODA JS to actively cooperate with suppliers and investors on projects with different reactor and power plant designs.

ŠKODA JS is considered the leader of Czech nuclear engineering. Have you really kept that position despite the fact that the last Czech nuclear power plant, in the construction of which you played a significant role, was launched in 2002?

We recently closed the year 2019, stating that it was the twentieth in a row when the company was profitable. We achieved revenues from the sale of products and services of almost 4.7 billion crowns and a pre-tax profit of over 244 million crowns, and we signed new contracts for 3.2 billion crowns.

We would not have achieved such results if we had not kept pace with the development of the industry, with the new requirements of safety, technology and legislation. Due to the limited size of the Czech market, we now realize almost 70 percent of our sales abroad, which means that we have withstood tough international competition. We have therefore retained the capacity, skills, knowledge, know-how and a highly qualified and motivated team. Today, we play a key role in the project of the most modern European power plant being completed in Mochovce. Not only there we prove our abilities, qualifications and potential. We offer a well-coordinated team, gained experience and knowledge for a new Czech project today, and in my opinion it would be very unfortunate if we would not use the know-how gained during the completion of Mochovce to the maximum extent possible during the construction of a new nuclear source in the Czech Republic.

So what do you offer to your potential customers today? In which parts of a nuclear power plant life process are you really strong?

If we look at a nuclear power plant project, we are able to offer maintenance, services and supplies throughout all stages. Beginning with the intention, design customization to local conditions, preparation and project management, through production, coordination of deliveries and commissioning, service, modernization and maintenance during operation, up to the last phase of the life cycle, i.e. decommissioning. We have gained valuable experience in this field during the ongoing decommissioning of the Slovak NPP Bohunice V1. Our potential to integrate forces and create a complex nuclear power plant project has been proven when we acted as the leader of an international consortium in the tender for the Temelín NPP completion, where we submitted one of two complete acceptable offers.

Service, maintenance and modernization are key points in terms of efficiency and service life of a nuclear power plant. They have long been provided by ŠKODA JS at all six Czech nuclear units.

Will nuclear power industry remain your only and exclusive field in the future?

We want to continue to focus primarily on projects in the field of nuclear power industry, ideally in the preparation, construction and operational support of a new unit at Dukovany and in future also at Temelín.

At the same time, we want to offer our experience, capacities and abilities for conventional power industry, both at home and abroad. We focus on the complete EPC delivery of power units in the field of conventional energy in promising fields, such as gas power plants with a single cycle and steam power plants with a combined cycle. The nature of these projects, especially in terms of a number of processes and their management, does not differ significantly from those with which we have more than sixty years of experience. Among other things, our company can use its designers, specialists and managers who in the past worked in companies specialized in conventional power industry, and who are well experience in these fields. Thus, the nuclear power energy remains our core business, but we are doing everything we can to expand our activities to other low-emission sources of electricity.

You recently stated that Czech companies could contribute to the construction of a new nuclear power plant with at least 70 percent. Can you specify this in more detail? Why is the Czech share so significant, is it only from the point of view of a potential contractor during construction?

I am still convinced of it, perhaps I would correct my statement saying that the share of Czech companies could exceed 80 percent. I would like to remind that both Czech nuclear power plants were built according to the Soviet design, but the absolute majority of deliveries, as well as the organization of construction, coordination of works and projects were provided by Czech and Slovak companies. Since the completion of Temelín, some companies have left the field, nevertheless there is still a strong group of Czech firms able to provide most of the work and supplies. They could provide project skills and capacities, project and process management including construction, supply of primary circuit equipment, turbine island equipment and all electrical equipment, air conditioning, cabling, fuel transport and storage technologies, all the construction works, and so on.

As for the second part of your question; By participating as much as possible in the project, Czech companies will not only strengthen their competitiveness and position in the international field, but they will also significantly strengthen the performance of the Czech economy. Employment in a highly qualified field will increase and, last but not least, the attractiveness of technical fields at secondary schools and universities will be strengthened.

And we must not forget that the relationship between the investor and the supplier does not end by the handover of a nuclear unit to the operator. During the operation, daily support of the supply sector is required to ensure its safe and profitable operation. And there is a big difference between whether the supplier is a domestic company or whether it seats on the other side of the world. Over the last 35 years, all repairs at both Czech nuclear power plants, as well as modernization and increasing safety and production capacity, have been provided by ourselves, within Czech industry. So if we are talking about the Czech share in building, we are also talking about the Czech share in the operation and maintenance of new units. And that is not a negligible item in terms of their economy and service life. I am convinced that the availability and self-sufficiency in supporting the operation of new units is also in the interest of the investor.

Do you think that the Czech Republic really needs a new nuclear source?

If I had to choose one positive thing about the situation we have been experiencing in recent months due to covid-19, it would be the fact that “self-sufficiency” has been added to the list of the most used words. If we mean it seriously, then in the field of energy self-sufficiency, while maintaining all requirements to reduce CO2 emissions, there is no other way for the Czech Republic than the construction of a new nuclear source with the maximum possible involvement of Czech companies.

Source: Euro
Author: Vlastimil Poliačik, poliacik@mf.cz

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