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Third nuclear block at Slovak NPP Mochovce obtains authorisation to operate

The Slovak nuclear regulator has approved the launch of the country's new nuclear reactor at the Mochovce facility, which, when fully operational, will make Slovakia an electricity exporter.

The lauch of the long delayed and over budget reactor comes as the issue of energy independence is even more important then ever. The new unit will help to make Slovakia more independent in terms of power generation, though nuclear fuel is still imported from Russia, and the country remains highly dependent on Russian oil and gas.

The Nuclear Regulatory Authority of the Slovak Republic (UJD SR) issued the final authorisation for commissioning for Unit 3 at the Nuclear Power Plant Mochovce on August 25.

This marks an end of a lengthy administrative process began in 2016 during which UJD SR “consistently checked and evaluated all areas, proving the technical and qualitative readiness of Unit 3 for fuel loading”, UJD stated. 

“The loading of fuel is possible on the day of the entry into force of the issued decision,” paving the way for the operator Slovenske Elektrarne to operate Unit 3. 

Chairman of UJD SR Marta Ziakova told Radio Slovakia that test runs of the block and putting it into operation will last at least four months. “If something will have to be repeated or will be slowed down it will last more months”, Ziakova explained. 

UJD SR will now also begin examining closer the Unit 4 of NPP Mochovce, which could be operational within two years. 

Austrian Climate Minister Leonore Gewessler criticised the decision to authorise the new unit, which is situated about 100km from the Austrian border, Euractiv reported. “We have repeatedly warned against commissioning. This decision is absolutely incomprehensible,” said Gewessler, who is from the Green party in the ruling coalition. Austria is nuclear free and has regularly criticised neighbouring states for pursuing nuclear energy.

Austrian environmental organisation Global 2000 reported the Slovakian nuclear regulator to the Slovakian Criminal Investigation Department in February, saying it had deliberately failed to conduct inspections. It said this week that commissioning the plant was "irresponsible".

Construction of Unit 3 was first commenced in 1987 and after a long pause works were resumed in 2008. The new block is a VVER pressurised water reactor, and its output will be 471 MW,  covering some 13% of electricity consumption in the country.  

As a result of the current energy crisis, Slovenske Elektrarne has in recent months been in lengthy negotiations over the possible introduction of a windfall tax or a capping of energy prices. 

The Slovak state has a 34% share in Slovenske Elektrarne and the remaining share is owned by Slovak Power Holding BV, 50:50 controlled by Czech-based energy company EPH and Italy's Enel. J&T Energy Holding of Slovak billionaire Patrik Tkac's J&T group is a 44.1% shareholder in EPH; 50% plus one share is owned by Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky, and 6% is owned by management.