May 19. 2024. 1:50

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Slovenian energy minister causes furore over new nuclear unit timeline

Environment, Climate, and Energy Minister Bojan Kumer sparked controversy after he brushed off the delayed plans to build the new unit at Slovenia’s sole nuclear power station.

In an interview run by N1 last weekend, Kumer discussed delays in the Krško Nuclear Power Station, also known as NEK2.

Kumer admitted changes to the timeline, noting there “will be nothing wrong if it is delayed”.

His ministry plans to submit an update to the NEK2 planning application, requested in September of last year by what was formerly the Environment and Spatial Planning Ministry, “in the coming months.”

Kumer did not disagree with the observation that the government has been devoting more attention to renewable energy sources and new technologies.

“If it keeps up this momentum, it can replace mature technology, that is, conventional nuclear reactors, within two years,” he said about the fast progress of small nuclear reactor technology.

Kumer’s comments about delays in the NEK2 project were criticised by the leader of the largest opposition party and former prime minister, Janez Janša. “These merit criminal prosecution”, he added.

Jernej Vrtovec, an MP for New Slovenia who served as infrastructure minister in the Janša government, has now called a session of the parliamentary Public Finance Oversight Commission, which he chairs, to discuss the government’s “dragging its feet”.

Addressing reporters on Wednesday, he expressed concern about the country’s energy independence and green transition amid a global energy crisis.

As Slovenia wants to become climate-neutral by 2055, Vrtovec argues that nuclear power will be key.

Krško, Slovenia’s sole nuclear plant, provides 25% of the country’s electricity.

However, Krško’ operating licence ends in 2043 and Slovenia wants to phase out coal – which will result in the Šoštanj Thermal Power Station shutting down by 2033 and lead to shortfalls for which, according to Vrtovec, renewables themselves will not be sufficient.