Support of the nuclear energy sector and new nuclear builds will be prime ministerial topics in Slovakia, said the Prime Minister at the international conference ENEF - European Nuclear Energy Forum 2023.
In his opening speech at the ENEF conference held on 7 November 2023 in Bratislava the Prime Minister emphasized that the development and support of the nuclear energy sector would be a prime ministerial theme. The Prime Minister confirmed the Government's ambition to continue with the new nuclear build project in Jaslovské Bohunice under the responsibility of company JESS, while equally important, according to his statements, will be the discussion on small modular reactors to be managed by company JAVYS.
At the conference, which has been held since 2007, it was confirmed that in the context of the current energy and geopolitical situation, there was a nuclear renaissance, where countries were facing many challenges and reassessing their energy mix. The importance of decarbonisation and mutual cooperation between countries with knowledge sharing in all areas of nuclear energy area was highlighted, while Slovakia has big plans in the nuclear energy field while respecting alternative sources such as wind and solar.
Kadri Simson, European Commissioner for Energy
"Security of power supply is an absolute priority and the second, equally important issue is climate change as an existential threat. Therefore, we should reduce greenhouse gas production and one of the ways how to do it is through the nuclear energy support. The European Commission is also involved in creating the conditions for the development of small modular reactors (SMRs), because new nuclear energy technologies will play an important role. The back-end of the fuel cycle is a complex issue, and the Commission is also focusing on issues of deep geological repositories in accordance with safety requirements, so that best practices are put into place. Significant financial resources will be allocated for this purpose, all of which must be implemented with public acceptance."
Panel discussions addressed the challenges for nuclear energy in times of military conflicts, the facts that political will is crucial for the development of nuclear energy, and guests also discussed the diversification of sources of nuclear fuel supply.
Marta Žiaková, Chairperson of the Nuclear Regulatory Authority of the Slovak Republic
"Diversification of nuclear fuel sources is one thing, but the real properties and parameters of the new fuel type is another. Everything takes time and change may take several years."
Participants in discussions agreed that although attention is turning back to the nuclear power again, it is not the same nuclear power as in the past. The sights are set on the new SMRs, there is more focus on the back-end of the fuel cycle, where a good solution is being sought to fund the decommissioning process, and that power generation from renewables alone is an unrealistic dream.
Pavol Štuller, CEO of company JAVYS
"The process of nuclear facilities decommissioning is often underestimated. Yet it is extremely important at the end of the nuclear facility operation and Slovakia can be an example of a success story and a role model of how to decommission efficiently, use professional capacities and subsequently use the site for further construction of nuclear facilities. The decommissioning process is also an opportunity to maintain a skilled workforce. There is also now a much greater need to communicate all activities to the public. It is not enough to have great technical and technological solutions, it is important that people believe in them. We need to explain to the public that the solutions connected with the back-end of the nuclear fuel cycle can be sustainable, efficient and safe."
In other sections of panel discussions, there was also more talk about spent nuclear fuel, its disposal and construction of deep geological repositories, with inspiration from countries such as Sweden and Finland, which are proof that the back-end of the fuel cycle can be approached efficiently, responsibly and with confidence-building with the public and politicians. In fact, spent nuclear fuel is no longer regarded as waste, but as a strategic raw material that can find new uses in the future.
Conference participants therefore agreed that the final concept of building deep geological repositories needs to be renegotiated at the European level, since their implementation today depends on many factors. The experience of Finland and Sweden also confirms that this issue needs to be properly communicated to the public and the public needs to be consistently involved in the relevant processes. Trust among citizens and transparency of processes are important in order to be able to make the right decisions. This is evidenced in Sweden, where the involvement of stakeholders, the green parties and NGOs in consultation and decision-making has led to a situation where 86% of the municipalities perceive the deep geological repository as safe and have said yes to the project. Municipalities were even competing with each other for its location and benefits. Sweden, unlike Finland, did not approach the deep geological repository as an industrial project, but as an environmental one.
The conference was closed with a discussion on the shortcomings in the education system and the changes needed to ensure that there is enough skilled labour on the market, while in Slovenia, for example, after the popularisation of the topic, there has been a great interest in working in the nuclear energy sector and it has become an attractive and promising field.
- The European Nuclear Energy Forum was established by the European Commission in 2007.
- Annual meetings are held alternately in Bratislava and Prague.
- It is one of the events of particular importance, sending a clear political signal on current nuclear energy issues.
- ENEF is also an important platform for discussions.
On the eve of the ENEF conference, an expert meeting on European perspectives for the development of new nuclear energy sector, organized by the French-Slovak Chamber of Commerce, was held, the topics of which were current and future projects of Slovak and French entities in the nuclear sector, or supply chain partnerships in the European nuclear programme. At the conference the representatives of company JAVYS provided information on the status, development and prospects of nuclear energy in Slovakia. Other participants shared their information on the latest developments in France, the United Kingdom and other European countries. The conference was concluded with a round table with Slovak and French representatives of the nuclear sector.