Politicians are starting to battle over the future of the Czech energy industry. The Ministry of Industry and Trade prepared a proposal for a new state energy programme, which counts on breaking the current limits for mining brown coal, opening new black coal mines and expanding the use nuclear energy.

It’s very probable that at least the development of nuclear energy will remain included in the documents that are now undergoing objection procedures. And this even despite that the moratorium on the construction of nuclear reactors, like the preservation of coal mining limits, are part of the coalition agreement, as enforced by the Green Party. But the Green’s opposition to nuclear power is weakening.

A more open “green” office

The Green-ruled Environment Ministry wrote 11 pages of objections to the state energy program. (HN has the list, as well as the energy program proposal.) But the list does not include any demand that nuclear energy be crossed off the list. Evidently, there has been a change in policy. Only in the summer, the ministry opposed any move in this direction. Now Bursík’s office wants to assign qualitative parameters for new nuclear reactors.

“We are not against nuclear energy,” says Environment Ministry spokesman Jakub Kašpar. “We are investing into nuclear research. We are sceptical, given teh current technology, but if our objections are addressed, we are not ruling out further development.” The Greens are mainly concerned about the storage of nuclear waste, which has not been figured out yet. But scientists say modern reactors, where the nuclear waste would be minimal, would help solve this problem.

“In the future we would need establish guarantees for monitoring at nuclear power plants. What’s more nuclear energy is not the answer to the current gas crisis and will not solve the problems with heating,” added Kašpar.

Industry and Trade Minister Martin Říman doesn’t doubt that the development of nuclear energy in the new project will remain. “The higher proportion of nuclear power in Czech energy will happen. That is obvious,” he told HN. The main point of contention between him and Brusík is the the future of coal and uranium mining.

Fight over coal

In its proposal, the Ministry of Industry and Trade is proposing to “release” brown coal from mining limits in northern Bohemia. It would mean cancelling mining limits and demolishing two towns – Horní Jiřetín and Černice. But according to the new energy programme, the fuel would guarantee energy for the production of electricity and heat for 40 to 50 years in the future.

But it’s not just about the mining limits for brown coal. The Industry and Trade Ministry proposal also advises to expand the use of black coal. The company OKD today counts on mining it for another 20 years. The ministry proposal emphasises, however, that under the Beskydy mountains there are up to 1.5 billion tonnes of black coal.

According Environment Ministry spokesman Kašpar, the proposal to break brown coal mining limits is unaccpetable for the ministry. “The state energy program goes against the current state resource policy and against the government’s programme statement.

The ministry also has reservations against black coal mining at the Frenštát mine, which, the ministry says, also goes against the state resource policy.

Another point of contentions is the fate of Czech uranium, whose supplies the Industry and Trade ministry wants to use to the maximum. This despite the current plan to cut down the mining of uranium. “The Czech Republic has significant supplies of uranium, which could play a deciding role in bolstering nuclear energy,” the ministry writes in its programme.

The Environment Ministry is displeased that the state’s energy strategy doesn’t count on any energy-saving measures. “Energy saving is the quickest investment in the energy sector,” said Kašpar.

It isn’t clear yet when the government will start discussing the energy programme. Even during Wednesday’s round of objection procedures, the two ministries have not been able to agree. “Main points of contention persist,” said Kašpar after the Wednesday meeting.