For the first time ever, NPP permitting procedures were open to NGOs beyond the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which is usually the only possibility for public participation.
The transboundary EIA for Dukovany 5 took place in 2018 with hearings not only in the Czech Republic, but also in Vienna and Munich. However, the EIA was conducted for a “black-box“ reactor. Or simply put: They did not know which reactor will be built and therefore used data for e.g. emissions to prove that the planned reactor will not pose an acceptable threat to the environment, whether it be built with Russian VVER technology or other. Back then, the VVER-1200 was rumored being the favored reactor type, because the Jihlava River’s cooling capacity was determined as being sufficient for another 1200 MW reactor. In the end, the Czech authorities announced that there will be chance for the public to participate later, when the reactors will be known.
After the EIA, the so-called zoning or siting procedure (not according to the Atomic Bill, but to construction law) was conducted with a rather bumpy public participation, because only a few NGOs were admitted; this was possible due to the restrictive Czech laws. But the public was included, even organizations from abroad. Again, a procedure for a nuclear power plant, but without specification of a reactor type.
The applicant was ČEZ (Elektrárna Dukovany II). The company filed the application with the building authority in Třebíč already in June 2021; the permit was issued end of October 2023. The deadlines had to be prolonged several times and to make this easier in future, the competence was moved from the local building authority directly to the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MPO) in Prague.
Several NGOs raised the legally possible appeal against this decision. Since the reactors are not known nor are they the real topic, the issues raised ranged from the necessary tree cutting to the important issue of sufficient cooling water. This is certainly unclear and in practical consequence the decision whether the new unit in Dukovany will use dry cooling, which is more expensive, remains to be seen.
The next step will be the construction permit where the reactors will be already chosen thus open for public scrutiny. But no, because also here legislation was changed meanwhile and…yes, keeps out the public. Participation in the permitting procedure for the public will come to an end even before the reactors will be decided.