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Slovenia Pushes on With Pricey Nuclear Project to Phase Out Coal

Slovenia will push forward with plans to build its second nuclear power plant, its largest and most expensive infrastructure project to date, as it aims to phase out coal by 2033.

“It won’t come cheap,” Dejan Paravan, Chief Executive Officer GEN energija doo., said in an interview. Initial estimates from 2006 put the project cost at €2 billion ($2.1 billion). The final figure will be significantly higher. Asked if the figure was likely to exceed €10 billion, he said: “Yes, we are talking about such magnitude.”

As climate change and energy security concerns revive interest in nuclear power, Slovenia’s government created a special working group in September to move ahead with the so-called JEK2 plant. The current target date for its connection to the grid is 2038.

Still, uncertainties remain, including a referendum in coming years, as the government looks to rally public opinion in favor of the pricey project. Paravan wouldn’t commit to a deadline and globally it’s not unusual for nuclear projects of this scale to overshoot target dates and budgets.

GEN, which is 100% publicly owned, has decided to more than double the project size to a maximum capacity of 2,400 megawatts from 1,100 megawatts. The firm plans to submit its request to amend the spatial plan in 2024, Paravan said.

A final investment decision is likely by 2028, he said. “Once the contracts are signed, there will be no going back.”

America’s Westinghouse Electric Co., France’s EDF and the Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co Ltd. are among the potential suppliers for the power plant.

The project is too big for GEN to finance it alone. “Slovenian businesses and different stakeholders from surrounding countries have already expressed interest,” Paravan said. The country’s only other nuclear power plant, in Krsko, was built with the help of Croatia, which remains a 50% owner.

Slovenia’s electricity consumption is set to double by 2050. With plans to phase out coal by 2033 and hydro potential tapped out, “nuclear power is definitely part of the solution,” Paravan said.

Currently coal and other fossil fuels make up 25.5% of the country’s power mix and nuclear 43.6% — half of which goes to Croatia, according to 2022 data from the state Energy Agency.

Source: BNN Bloomberg