A conversation with Rastislav Petrech, head of the Foreign Affairs & Public Relations Department:
On the morning of Friday, August 28, 1998, the first phase of complete nominal performance began in the first block (440 MW). Today it is fully operational. When do you plan to launch the second block?
Work on the second block continues on schedule. The first tests will be held in November. Later, additional tests will follow so that the second block can be 100% operational in October next year. Sticking to the deadlines is not our primary goal, we would like to have this second block really ready for winter operation.
Will Slovakia be self-sufficient in the field of electric energy?
Slovakia imported up to 15% of its power last year. From this, you can see that it has not been self-supporting. We have reduced imports simply because our energy is cheaper. To compare: the first block generates 7-8% of the electric power consumed annually in Slovakia. When both blocks work 100%, they will produce around 15% of the nation's electric power.
What will the launch of the third and fourth blocks mean for Slovakia?
The Mochovce nuclear plant's third and fourth blocks would produce 30-40% of the energy that Slovakia consumes in a year. I think it would be wise to cover energy consumption with our own sources. Slovakia has no primary energy sources. We do not have oil or gas, and our coal is young and not suitable for energy production. We are left to import these raw materials. That is why nuclear energy appears to be the best option for energy production. Our personnel is well-qualified and expanding the factory's staff will only affect shift workers. The additional two blocks will bring another 880 MGW. The Mochovce nuclear plant was designed as a four-block project. Many machines, such as water regulators and filling stations that supply water from the Hron and other sources, have to work regardless of whether one block is operating or four. It is up to the Slovak government to decide if and when Mochovce's third and fourth blocks will be built.
What are the planned investments for the two aforementioned blocks?
The value of the first two blocks is around 48 billion Sk. That price includes the equipment necessary for all blocks, so the next two blocks will be cheaper. Slovenské Elektrárne conducted a comprehensive study elaborating the advantages of launching the third and fourth blocks. The government may or may not accept this concept. In my opinion, they should be built.
Can you compare hydro energy with nuclear energy from a financial point of view?
In talking about hydroelectric power stations, we have to realize one fact: Slovak hydropotential is at 54% capacity. We are one of the few countries that uses its water potential that much. Only Norway, Sweden and Austria take more advantage of it. We can exploit this source only up to 60%, because other water sources are unusable. The costs will be high and the output low, because there aren't many large rivers in Slovakia. If we compare the prices of energy from Žilina hydro power plant and Mochovce nuclear power plant, we find that 1 Mochovce kWh is cheaper. How much is 1 kWh? It will be high to begin with, but it will gradually decline.
What do you think about electricity prices?
We have state-regulated prices and we distribute energy through Slovenské Elektrárne, š.p. The problem is that people don't perceive electric power as a product. They consider it as a social entitlement. I agree with our director Ing. Jozef Valach, who says: "When people use energy like other goods, they will use light only when necessary and they will not waste it." In this country, people do not have motivation to save energy. The same is true with economical bulbs, because the investment does not come back. The price for electric energy is very low. In my home, I have economic bulbs, not for economic reasons but according to my convictions.I do not believe I shall get a return on this investment given present prices. Two years ago, when Mr. Ducký was the Minister of Economy, prices were modified. Mr. Ducký said it was the first step. The next steps should follow each subsequent year, and prices should rise 2% over annual inflation. Not even Romania has such low prices. Albania has the lowest prices in Europe. At the same time, there are large differences between industrial and household prices. The latter is only 1.70 Sk/1 kWh. The market price is several times higher. However, if the price rises 50%, it will not reach market level, but people will learn to save energy and treat it as they do other goods.
What are your ecological plans for the future?
Slovakia's parliament was one of the few to ratify (4 years ago) the international requirement to lower emissions by January 1, 1999. This is an example of our commitment to ecological improvement in Slovakia, since this is the second purest energy source after hydroelectric power stations. We do not emit anything into the air, not even CO2, which is responsible for the greenhouse effect.In today's world, we need electricity as much as air or water. Can you imagine your life without it? Everything is useless without energy. When it goes out for an hour we feel like we do not have arms, legs, eyes or ears. Three billion people who need energy are without it. There is a theory that gas will be the energy medium of next century. But I believe that nuclear energy is and will remain the energy source of next millennium, unless another source is discovered.
12. Oct 1998 at 0:00