Slovakia worries nuclear plant may be delayed

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

BRATISLAVA, Aug 12 (Reuters) - Slovakia is worried power generator Slovenske Elektrarne (SE) may be late finishing a second nuclear power plant, a delay which could damage the economy, Prime Minister Robert Fico said in remarks carried by a newspaper on Tuesday.

Fico asked SE, 66-percent owned by Italy's utility Enel, to present a detailed timetable of work on the two 440 MW blocks at the Mochovce nuclear plant, which should be completed in 2012-2013 at a cost of 1.6 billion euros.

"The government is looking at this project with some concern, regarding the timetable," the daily Sme ( quoted Fico as saying.

"Every single month of delaying the completion of the third and fourth blocks will cause more and more complications to Slovakia," he said after visiting Mochovce with SE officials.

Slovakia depends heavily on nuclear energy and its two plants produced 57 percent of its electricity in 2007.

The small central European country has shut down one block and will have to close another unit at the oldest Soviet-style nuclear power plant at Jaslovske Bohunice, which was a condition in the accession treaty with the European Union.

The agreement has turned Slovakia into an electricity importer, and one of Fico's top economic priorities is to boost power generating capacities

SE Chief Executive, Paolo Ruzzini, said the company was making "every effort" to confirm that Mochovce will be completed in 2012 and 2013 as planned, Sme reported.

Leftist leader Fico has had several clashes with SE since he won a 2006 election on promises to take better care of the poor.

The cabinet has pressured SE over prices as it tries to make good on an election promise to limit hikes in household energy bills. It is also trying to take a major hydro power plant on the river Danube back under state operation.

In July, the government granted greater powers to the energy market regulator and approved a decree giving the cabinet an option to order SE to sell part of its power production to households for prices set by the state.

The generator, in which the state holds the remaining 34 percent stake and which is financing the Mochovce completion from its own cashflow, has since appealed the decree.

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