The European Commission has launched an investigation to determine whether the planned public support for the extension of the Czech nuclear power plant Dukovany complies with EU competition rules.
The Commission announced the start of the investigation in a press release published on Thursday 30 June. The planned public support includes a low-interest state loan to cover construction costs, estimated at 7.5 billion euros.
The EU executive said that according to its preliminary assessment, the project is necessary and that the planned support facilitates the development of economic activities, but that it is not clear if it is in harmony with the rules of the EU on state aid. The EU executive has therefore decided to open an in-depth investigation.
The EU said it would assess the relevance and proportionality of the support and its impact on economic competition. He noted that the Czech Republic and other concerned entities could comment on the matter now.
The decision to investigate is good news for the Czech Republic because formal investigations are necessary in such complex cases, Václav Nováček, Attaché for Competition and State Aid at the Czech Permanent Representation in Brussels, tweeted Thursday.
The CEZ group, controlled by the Czech state, launched in March the call for tenders for the construction of a new nuclear power plant. Construction is due to begin in 2029 and its trial operation will be launched in 2036.
According to the Czech Minister of Industry and Trade, Jozef Síkela, the construction of a new unit in Dukovany, in southern Moravia, is the biggest investment in the modern history of the country.
The three bidders are the American Westinghouse, the French EdF and the South Korean KHNP.
Due to security risks, Czechia excluded Chinese contractors from the tender in early 2021. In April of the same year, the country officially banned Russian energy group Rosatom from bidding on the contract for several billion, claiming to have seen evidence that Russian secret agents were involved in explosions at a Czech munitions depot in 2014.
Nuclear energy remains one of the key elements of the Czech energy mix. The Czech Republic currently has six nuclear reactors in operation, representing 37.3% of electricity production in 2020.