Slovenia to hold referendum on new nuclear unit this year
Slovenia is to hold a consultative referendum this year on whether to build a second nuclear unit to replace the current one at the Krško Nuclear Power Station once its extended lifespan ends in 2043, under a deal reached at a cross-party meeting hosted by Prime Minister Robert Golob.
The 30 January meeting, bringing together the leaders of all five parliamentary parties, the country's president and president of the National Assembly, and the two MPs representing the Italian and Hungarian ethnic minorities, endorsed renewable energy sources and nuclear energy as the right path to a carbon-free society.
Another point the officials agreed on was that Krško 2, whose cost has been estimated at €10 billion, "is such an important project, not only in terms of the value of the investment, but mainly for Slovenia's future, that it is essential to build a political consensus around it," Golob told reporters after the meeting.
Parties looking to speed up procedures for Krško 2
The parties will be looking for common solutions to prepare what is necessary, including legislation, to accelerate the project with Golob singling out zoning legislation as the biggest drag on this type of projects.
Meeting in a more narrow line-up after the summit, Golob said the five parties agreed to form the referendum question together to put it to a vote before the year is out. They have not set the date yet, but Golob said they were "inclined to hold it in the second half of the year".
The referendum question will be formed and the vote called based on a resolution on peaceful use of nuclear energy in Slovenia, which the government plans to put forward to the National Assembly in the coming days or weeks.
"I believe all five parties will sign on to the referendum question and then advocate in favour of nuclear energy in the referendum campaign," Golob said.
He believes holding the popular vote this year makes sense in order to make it possible to speed up certain procedures, in particular siting, and to give a go-ahead for preparatory activities that will cost more than €100 million.
Decision on investment by 2028
A decision on the investment is to be made in 2027 or 2028 when the value of the investment and the rated power of the new reactor should have become known, Golob said, indicating there may be another referendum on the project then.
Asked about potential cooperation of other countries (the Krško plant is half owned by Croatia) and how much the taxpayer would chip in, Golob said decisions on all those questions will be made once the final decision is made, including on the business model and who the investors are.
"Firstly, how many investors there are, who they are and in what way the Slovenian side is involved. The Slovenian side can be Gen Energija [the company running the Krško plant], it can be Slovenian businessmen, who have expressed their intention, we may issue bonds or even a public invitation for residents to take part," Golob said, adding that all those questions are still open.
Opposition bet on nuclear as cheap source of energy
If the parties reach consensus on the referendum question, the SDS is willing to withdraw its own motion for a consultative referendum on the issue it filed earlier this month, and submit the agreed question along with the other parliamentary parties, SDS leader Janez Janša said.
Janša described the meeting as useful, for one thing because it will speed up the project of Krško 2. "Each month that Slovenia gains here, getting into line for nuclear reactors earlier, is measured in tens of millions of euros that Slovenian taxpayers will pay in one way or another," he said.
He repeated his position that the construction of the new nuclear unit would mean a cheap source of energy for consumers in Slovenia in the next decades.
Echoing his positions, Matej Tonin, the leader of the other opposition party, New Slovenia (NSi), said he was "glad that when Slovenia's future is at stake, all Slovenian political parties are capable of engaging in dialogue and reaching consensus".
Public support for the project appears to be strong, with a recent poll commissioned by the newspaper Dnevnik showing 69% of the respondents supporting the second nuclear unit.