The state-run operator of Slovakia's two nuclear power plants, Slovenské Elektrárne (SE), is searching for a way to cover its liability for damages caused in the event of a nuclear accident. Financial responsibility for such a catastrophe has been passed to SE by the Slovak government under new nuclear energy legislation in force since July 1, 1998.
"The new law has been applied in accordance with foreign standards of nuclear power legislation," said Jozef Šucha, the Economy Ministry's spokesman. As a consequence of Slovakia's signature of the Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage, the Slovak government had been temporarily providing funds of 2 billion Sk ($58 million) to cover liabilities in case of a nuclear accident. "The amount was determined by the government as the highest possible cost of such damage," Šucha explained.
But the new law makes SE, as a nuclear power plant operator, fully liable for damages caused by a nuclear accident. "It's nonsense to keep a special fund in the state budget to cover liability costs forever," said Stanislav Novák of the Nuclear Supervision Office, which drafted the law concept. "Now it is purely the operator's business how liability costs are covered," Novák added.
"SE can either raise its own funds to cover that amount or find an insurer for this purpose," said Vladimír Ščasnár, head of the Slovak Nuclear Insurance Pool Office at Slovenská Poisťovňa, the country's largest insurer. "We would like to sign a contract with SE by October 1. The pool will consist of 12 world insurers, as the amount would be unbearable for one company to cover alone," Ščasnár maintained.
SE dominates the Slovak electricity market, generating 86% of total power. In 1997, 29% of electricity produced by SE was generated from coal, 20% from hydroelectric plants and 51% from the nuclear power plants in Jaslovské Bohunice. The share of nuclear power generation at Mochovce is estimated to rise to 40% by the end of 1999, when two of the four planned reactors will be launched at full output. With the strong support of the government, SE is a strategic enterprise set to grow by 2-3% p.a. in the medium term.