Environmental impact of nuclear power plants
Like any other human activity, the nuclear power plant operation affects its environment. However, in objective comparison of nuclear power plants and other power sources or industrial operations in terms of the environmental impacts, the nuclear power plants tend to be very environmental-friendly facilities.
The environmental impacts of the operation of the existing Temelín NPP reactor units are insignificant. The results obtained during the power plant operation prove it. For example, the radiation situation in the power plant vicinity has been monitored since 1991, i.e. 9 years before the power plant start-up. Even after more than ten years of the operation it is almost the same and it is similar to the common background in other parts of our country.
The health of the population in the vicinity of the Temelín NPP has been monitored in the long term since 1992. Each year the specialists from Masaryk University in Brno process the results regarding the health of the population living in the power plant vicinity. According to the existing results of these studies, there is no direct impact of the nuclear power plant operation on the health of the population living in its vicinity and the frequency of illnesses does not differ from other areas.
The environmental impacts of the Temelín NPP completion were reviewed in the EIA process
Within the inter-state process of the environmental impact assessment (EIA), which was held from 2008 to 2013, the potential impacts of the Temelín NPP completion on the environment and public health were assessed, also considering the co-acting effects of the operation of the existing power plant and existing background.
The EIA process is intended to find out, describe and provide comprehensive assessment of the impacts on the environment and public health prior to the construction project proper. The EIA process is managed by the Ministry of the Environment (ME) and in the Czech Republic it is regulated by the Act No. 100/2001 Coll. on environmental impact assessment, as amended. Detailed information is available e.g. here: http://www.mzp.cz/cz/posuzovani_vlivu_zivotni_prostredi
ČEZ, a. s., presented the notification of the EIA project for the Temelín NPP completion to the ME in July 2008. The Ministry published the notification in August and that way launched the so-called preliminary proceedings. The ME also included the neighbouring Austria and Germany in the EAI process for the new units. The preliminary proceedings were finished in February 2009; by their end, the ME informed ČEZ, a. s., regarding the requirements for the contents of EIA documentation. These consisted of 34 main and 165 partial requirements that the Ministry received from the affected state administration bodies, local self-governments, civic associations and public, also from abroad. The conclusions of the preliminary proceedings and their settlement are included in the EIA documentation, which provides the basic data regarding the project and assesses the expected direct as well as indirect environmental and public health impacts of the completion.
ČEZ, a. s., handed the EIA documentation over to the ME in May 2010. In June 2010, it was made available by the ME to both the Czech and foreign public. Slovakia (September 2010) and Poland (December 2010) joined the interstate EIA process subsequently. In addition to sending the EIA documentation, the ME offered to hold the interstate consultations regarding the EIA documentation to all summoned neighbouring countries (Austria, Germany, Slovakia and Poland) in compliance with Espoo convention. The total of three interstate consultations regarding EIA documentation were held - two with Austria (January and May 2011) and one with Germany - the Free State of Bavaria (June 2011).
Based on EIA documentation and all applied opinions from the Czech Republic and abroad, the ME ordered the preparation of an independent expert opinion for the EIA documentation with an authorised body. After the opinion had been published (February 2012), the ME held the public hearing (June 2012), the organisation of which follows from the Czech law on the environmental impact assessment. The public hearing was preceded by public debates in the territory of the Federal Republic of Germany (in Passau on 12 June 2012) and in the territory of Austria (in Vienna on 30 May 2012).
The ME, based on the EIA documentation, assessment, public hearing and all opinions delivered during the time of the EIA process, issued the positive EIA opinion (January 2013).
The EIA opinion proper includes 90 conditions and requirements to protect the environment and public health - divided into the stages of preparation, construction and operation - which are to be observed on the following stages of the design documentation of the construction and which are to be included as the terms for the following administrative proceedings (e.g. the process of issuance of the zoning and building permit, etc.).
The ME opinion is not the decision regarding the planned project, but it is one of the necessary expert documents for the respective administrative authorities which are authorised to issue the subsequent permissive decisions.
The EIA documentation assesses the least favourable environmental impacts of individual reference units
In the process of preparing the documentation, which assesses the environmental impacts of the power plant completion, its authors used the so-called "envelope" method. Out of the assessed reference designs considered for the construction with the total net generating capacity below 3400 MWe (two units with the net capacity below 1700 MWe), always two least favourable impacts for each area under assessment were selected (e.g. the highest water consumption possible, the highest steam generation possible, the noisiest source, the highest size for the landscape impact etc.). That way an "envelope of the least favourable parameters" was created to be used as the input for the assessment of impacts on the environment and public health. This approach is very conservative (and therefore safe) and it is used by many countries in the preparation of the EIA documentation. For example, it was used in the preparation of the Finnish nuclear power plant in the Olkiluoto location. This method provides for the comprehensive assessment of the project's environmental impacts already at the time when no specific contractor has been chosen. The selected design including all its environmental impacts always fits the assessed "envelope".
The EIA documentation proper contains approx. 500 text pages and two thousand pages of annexes. Approximately 200 specialists from many renowned institutions participated in its preparation, which took 15 months, including ÚJV Řež, a. s., division of Energoprojekt Praha, Czech Hydrometeorological Institute, Institute of Atmospheric Physics of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, T. G. Masaryk Water Research Institute or Masaryk University in Brno.
In the EIA documentation, the authors assess the impacts on individual components of the environment and public health. The subject of the assessment includes the impacts on the population, atmosphere and climate, water, noise situation and other physical and biological characteristics, soil, rock environment and natural resources, landscape, flora, fauna and eco-systems, tangible property and cultural monuments, transport and other infrastructure and other monitored parameters. The impacts of the new reactor units are assessed separately as well as together with the operation of the existing two units. The impacts that arise during the construction and after the end of the reactor unit operation are also assessed.
In the course of preparing the EIA documentation, no facts that might hinder further preparation of new reactor units from the perspective of environmental impacts were established. The potential impacts on public health and the environment do not exceed applicable legal limits or (if no limits are set down) an acceptable level, even if the contributory effect of the existing power plant operation and the existing background is taken into account.
The EIA documentation is available HERE
In the course of the whole EIA process, thousands of pages of technical papers, analyses, opinions and other documents were prepared and dozens of experts not only from the Czech Republic participated in their preparation. Almost 5 years passed after the notification was filed until the decision was issued. For the whole time, the EIA process was followed by the Czech and foreign public, which had several opportunities in its course to express their opinion on individual documents.
All substantial documents related to the EIA process are available in the EIA Information System here: http://portal.cenia.cz/eiasea/detail/EIA_MZP230