OPINION / The government of Petr Fiala, who is widely hated by the people, took several fundamental steps in the first week of November that will significantly strengthen the strategic security of the Czech Republic. The push for the construction of nuclear power plants – both old large blocks and prospective modular reactors – is, apart from strengthening the Czech army, the most important thing that the leadership of our country should do today. The critics of the coalition of five did not notice that with its “nuclear steps” this week, the government made a fundamental contribution to the fulfillment of the demands that the desolates are calling for: Independence and independence of the Czech Republic in the energy sector.
The biggest problem for journalists occurs when some otherwise completely unacceptable entity is completely right in some of its claims. That’s why I cried for years when the combined forces of extra-parliamentary media opposition from Jana Bobošíková to Václav Klaus called for a renaissance of nuclear energy. And when this bunch wrote fiery pamphlets against ill-advised investment in unmanageable renewables and neglecting nuclear, I gritted my teeth because they were right. And that crushed me – because in almost all of their other statements, in my opinion, they do not have the truth, and their proposals are completely unacceptable. However, they were absolutely right about the core and strategic importance of our country’s energy independence. Bobošíková and Klaus. In the first week of November, the government proved that this criticism of its activities is unnecessary. The cabinet corrected not years, but long decades of neglect of nuclear energy with rocket speed.
Old but functional
In the debate about nuclear reactors, the attention of novelty lovers has been focused on modular reactors for several years. Small, cheap, one for each regional town – they should also function as a source of heat for the town. This does not mean, however, that the North Bohemian glass industry, the Prague metro, the Pendolino or the skyrocketing number of electric cars would not provide absolute certainty of a large demand for electricity, for which large sources are of course adequate – large nuclear reactors, such as we have today in Temelín, for example. They are proven, there are decades of experience with them, and hundreds of them have been built around the world.
On October 31, the North American Westinghouse, the Korean KHNP and the French EDF submitted the final bid for the construction of a new nuclear unit in Dukovany on Tuesday at the Prague headquarters of ČEZ. With them, ČEZ also received (non-binding) offers for the next block in Dukovany, as well as for the construction of the third and fourth blocks in Temelín. The debt created by previous governments led by Andrej Babiš’s cabinet, when the need for additional large reactors was already quite clear, Fial’s government began to repay. Now it is necessary to press for speed as much as possible – and if it succeeds, then perhaps not exactly according to plan, but nevertheless in the foreseeable future there may be fundamental steps for the decarbonization of our energy sector.
Let’s be modern when possible!
Of course, modular reactors, orders of magnitude smaller and cheaper, are more promising than large nuclear blocks, which would be able to decentralize the energy sector. And the network structure of the energy industry, adding a larger number of interconnected small resources scattered throughout the territory of the republic to the large blocks, would ensure the energy industry a similar low vulnerability as the Internet. If the two large Temelín nuclear units were to fail due to an accident like the impact of the Russian Iskanders, a network of small reactors across the country would be able to ensure that even such a direct hit to the Czech energy industry would not mean a huge collapse of the electricity supply.
However, modular reactors still have a small drawback: They cannot yet be purchased anywhere. But according to all available information, the sharp start of the first modular reactor is about to fall. On Wednesday, Petr Fiala’s cabinet approved a specialized plan focused precisely on the development of modular reactors. “After receiving offers for a new nuclear source in Dukovany with a possible option for other large units, I perceive small and medium-sized reactors as another addition to the modern resource base of the Czech Republic. And that’s both in the production of electricity and heat,” declared Minister of Industry and Trade Jozef Síkela. “Thanks to the approved plan, we will provide investors with certainty so that they can prepare the necessary locations and subsequently make investment decisions,” he added – and he was right.
Reactors can be an electoral trump card
Like any government that tries to run a reasonable economy and not put the country in debt, Fial’s government, thanks to this effort to be a good manager, irritates the less intelligent part of the electorate. Those who would rather have higher pensions for themselves than lower taxes for their grandchildren. A responsible government will not increase their pensions for the debt – and they will then elect the opposition in protest, which has already increased them once for the debt. “Do you remember, Ms. Vopršálková, how they kept increasing our pensions for Mr. Babiš?”
And Ms. Vopršálková unfortunately usually doesn’t answer: “How did they add to the borrowed money?” Rather, she answers that, on top of that, Mr. Babiš dances nicely on TikTok. The latter has a peep from the grandchildren, who would repay her today’s pension increase on the national debt in adulthood. But if even such a responsible government has some program point that can serve as a totem, a main idea, if not a higher meaning, then it has a chance even without raising pensions. And that totem, if only as a result of the Russian army’s brutal attacks on Ukrainian power plants, with good communication from the government, could become the energy independence of our country, and even with an overlap: That when the clouds cover the Sun in Germany and there is no wind, then their wind and solar power plants will be as valid as a dead man’s winter coat. And we can sell them electricity at that moment, or even better barter it for gas. We cannot be self-sufficient in this.
Fial’s government has – because it tries to manage the economy at least somewhat responsibly – very low trust. He does not want to increase pensions or benefits, he does not want to borrow money to bribe voters. But now she has a vision that could function as a fundamental argument in her favor: Full energy self-sufficiency of our republic. A goal that is as important as the full defense capability of our military, as important as the F-35. Unlike the need for fighter jets, everyone understands that we need strong sources of electricity so that we don’t have to import it very expensively from abroad when there is a shortage. And it’s the kind of idea that could awaken national pride, unite a divided society, and ensure that the next election is not won by pro-Russian despots and populists.
So the key task of the government in the two years until the elections should be to work on the realization of the vision of an energy-independent Czech Republic, which was started this week. I think she could win the next parliamentary election with that. The start of construction of several reactors has much more weight than Tomio Okamura’s populist swearing and Andrej Babiš’s dance performances with pensioners on his sleepy rides through the Czech countryside.