Volga Dnepr company Ilyushin landed at Brno Airport on Thursday afternoon. Due to the invasion of Ukraine in February, Russian aircraft are not allowed to enter the airspace of the Czech Republic, but the four-engine transport aircraft with the designation RA-76511 received an exemption from the authorities.
“In accordance with a directly applicable EU regulation, the Ministry of Transport issued an exception for the Russian air carrier Volga Dnepr for flights to or from the Czech Republic for the purpose of transporting a specific commodity in the strategic interest of the Czech Republic and other EU member states, for the reason that currently at the moment there is no available alternative to air transport,” said František Jemelka, spokesman for the Ministry of Transport, for Seznam Zprávy.
The exemption must be signed by all member states of the European Union and the European Commission. Without a special permit, neither the Czechia nor the transit countries would approve the flight plan of the aircraft and it would be an illegal violation of airspace. But the Ilyushin il-76TD-90VD carried an important cargo for the republic.
“We can confirm that these were fuel assemblies for the Temelín power plant based on a valid contract and last year’s order. The transport of nuclear fuel has an exception with regard to the safety of ensuring production from these sources. Similar deliveries continue to other countries as well,” said Ladislav Kříž, chief spokesperson of ČEZ Group, when asked by Seznam Zpráv.
The same plane landed at least once at Bratislava’s Milan Rastislav Štefánik airport in the period after the February invasion. It brought fuel for the Slovak nuclear power plants in Mochovce and Jaslovské Bohunice. In the Czech Republic, the Temelín and Dukovany nuclear power plants require Russian fuel.
“In both of our nuclear power plants, we maintain sufficient stocks of fuel assemblies. Dates, routes and the size of deliveries are not public information,” said ČEZ spokesperson Kříž.
So far Russia, later USA and France
The exception for Russian aircraft carrying nuclear fuel was written about at the beginning of April, when Hospodářské noviny described that the third Russian plane with an exception to the ban had already arrived in the Czech Republic. ČEZ spokesman Kříž said at the time that Temelín has a supply of fuel for two years and Dukovany for three.
At the end of August, the employees of Temelín placed 163 fuel assemblies in the reactor of the decommissioned second unit, it was the second fuel exchange in 2022. They are planning a similar operation in Dukovany in October.
Czech nuclear power plants should continue to receive fuel from Russia in the following years, so Thursday’s flight of the Russian plane was probably not the last. From the point of view of nuclear safety, it is important to maintain a two-year supply of fuel. A source from the Temelín nuclear power plant, who did not wish to be named, told the editors. Information about deliveries is not public for security reasons.
Dukovany and Temelín are currently dependent on Russian suppliers, specifically the company TVEL from the Russian state holding Rosatom. Fuel supplies, including nuclear, are not covered by the sanctions imposed by the European Union on some Russian companies after the Russian Federation attacked Ukraine.
“From 2024, the Temelín power plant will use fuel assemblies from the Westinghouse and Framatome companies,” added Kříž, a spokesman for Seznam Zprávy.