Serbia on its way to nuclear energy

Serbian officials have been frequently stating that Serbia needs nuclear energy, and today a document confirming this direction was signed, despite the ongoing moratorium on this type of energy that has been in place since 1989, following the Chernobyl nuclear plant incident.

“The implementation of nuclear energy is a long-term project, and fortunately for Serbia, we don’t have to make a decision today,” said Nikola Rajaković, a retired professor from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and President of the Serbian Energy Association.

Today, it was announced that a Memorandum of Understanding on the application and development of nuclear energy in Serbia was signed between five ministries and 20 scientific-academic institutions and institutes.

Prime Minister Miloš Vučević emphasized that this corrects a mistake made in the 1980s when the state banned the production of nuclear energy.

“No one doubts that the issue of electricity will be dominant and strategic, and that investment in this area will be a matter of sovereignty and independence for a state,” Vučević said.

“A memorandum is not a contract, and it’s fortunate we have time to see in which direction this will develop,” Rajaković notes and adds that things are not that simple and that the issue here is whether Serbia needs a nuclear power plant.

“At this moment we do not know whether we need to go in the direction of nuclear energy or not, nor do we know whether nuclear energy is good or not for us. What if fusion or hydrogen technologies come into play, and there are indications that this will happen,” Rajaković concluded.

He believes that this is a long-term topic and that we will know more only around 2035.

This long-term project was also noted in March by Serbia’s Minister of Mining and Energy, Dubravka Đedović Handanović, when she said that we are talking about 2039 or 2040 if we start working on introducing nuclear energy now. Today, as one of the signatories of the Memorandum of Understanding, she explained that this will allow the gathering of expert personnel from home and abroad who will work on exploring the possibilities for establishing a program for the peaceful use of nuclear energy in Serbia.

“By signing the Memorandum, we wanted to connect ministries, our academic and scientific institutions, to give them a ‘boost’ so we can even consider using nuclear energy in our country. The topic of energy supply is a matter of both energy and national security, and therefore it is important to consider all the facts in a professional and dedicated manner and not skip any steps along the way, because we have no room for mistakes,” Đedović Handanović said while participating in the panel discussion “Nuclear Energy from the Past to the Future,” which started the public debate on the possibilities of using nuclear energy in Serbia.

She added that drafting a preliminary technical study should provide a comparative analysis of available technologies in the market, showing the advantages and disadvantages of possible solutions and the technical, economic, and market parameters for the construction of nuclear power plants.

“These are necessary prerequisites for making informed decisions in the future, along with the development of educational and scientific programs, strengthening capacities in our institutes, and creating a regulatory and institutional framework,” the Minister said.

The use of nuclear energy is also foreseen in one of the scenarios of the Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan, as well as in the new Energy Development Strategy, where the introduction of nuclear power plants into Serbia’s energy system is considered after 2040.

“Through the development of strategic documents, we have shown that we are aware of the necessity to consider the possibility of using nuclear energy to meet our energy needs as we gradually move away from fossil fuels,” the Minister added.

She reminded that since 1989, a legal ban on the construction of nuclear power plants has been in place in Serbia, introduced in response to the Chernobyl accident in 1986.

“However, the provisions of that law do not apply to scientific research and development work, mining and geological exploration, and the education of personnel. Regulatory conditions are just one element – there are many other steps we need to take to make an informed decision about nuclear energy. Experts have said that we have a foundation that needs to be developed, primarily in terms of developing expert knowledge. There are guidelines from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the steps and conditions that need to be met, and we have also signed agreements with companies that are the bearers of knowledge and technologies in the field of nuclear energy. This is important primarily for the development of expert knowledge and does not pre-commit us to any specific partner or technology,” the Minister stated.

How It All Began

At the beginning of 2019, Serbia and Russia signed an agreement on cooperation in the field of nuclear energy development for peaceful purposes while Nenad Popović was the Minister of Innovation and Technological Development.

During the international conference “Atomexpo 2019” in Sochi, Popović signed two memorandums of cooperation with the general director of the Russian state corporation Rosatom.

As announced, the first document sets the direction for cooperation in the area of preparing and training expert personnel, while the second pertains to transparency and informing the public about the use of nuclear technologies for peaceful purposes. Popović assessed that the signing of these agreements opened a new perspective in the relations between Serbia and Russia.

“Serbia will now have the chance to receive a transfer of knowledge from the best Russian nuclear technology experts and to jointly renew and build the Serbian scientific base in this field,” said Popović.

He added that Serbia, in cooperation with Rosatom, aims to establish the most advanced research center for nuclear science, technology, and innovation, where experts in nuclear technologies from around the world will be trained.

However, to date, everything remains at the level of interest, and the ideas have not been implemented.

Two years later, President Aleksandar Vučić stated that a decision would be made on whether Serbia would participate in building nuclear power plants in neighboring countries or construct its own modular nuclear power plants, i.e., small modular nuclear reactors.

“Six days ago, I talked with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and offered Serbia to buy 15 percent of their nuclear power plant, which will be completed in 2035, and is ready to pay a good price,” Vučić said in Obrenovac while inspecting the work on the revitalization of block B1 at the Nikola Tesla B Thermal Power Plant.

He added that he also spoke with the former Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov about their nuclear plant in Belene.

Despite the moratorium on the construction of nuclear power plants, officials have begun advocating for a turn towards nuclear energy.

In 2019, Serbia passed a new Law on Radiation and Nuclear Safety, and in April of this year, MP Zoran Dragišić from the Serbian Progressive Party submitted a proposal to the Serbian Parliament to repeal the Law on the Prohibition of Nuclear Power Plant Construction in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

This happened just a day after the Serbian President visited France, where one of the main topics was energy cooperation, especially in the field of nuclear energy.

Dragišić justified his proposal by stating that the law was inherited from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and that it “ties Serbia’s hands in developing nuclear energy, which is currently the biggest hit in energy,” as well as scientific research on the topic.

“I expect that this proposal will be on the Parliament’s agenda at the first session after the government is formed. I also expect the parliamentary group ‘Aleksandar Vučić – Serbia Must Not Stop’ to support the proposal, as well as a large number of other MPs, because this is not a political but a strategic issue,” Dragišić said.

It is important to note that Serbia has committed to phasing out coal by 2050 by signing the Declaration on the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans in November 2020. Additionally, the goal is to drastically reduce air pollution by 2030.

Serbia is not the only country considering using nuclear energy. Poland plans to build 24 modular nuclear reactors by 2030, while the Czech Republic plans to build four instead of the originally planned one. The direction Slovenia will take will be decided by its citizens in a referendum.

(Insajder, 10.07.2024)

This post is also available in: Italiano

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