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The misconceptions and realities surrounding nuclear energy development in Serbia

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The discussions arising from the recent meeting between the presidents of Serbia and France, Aleksandar Vučić and Emmanuel Macron in Paris, have sparked various interpretations in some Serbian media regarding the directions for nuclear energy development in our country. These interpretations, according to some experts, do not accurately depict the situation or the potential for Serbia to construct a nuclear power plant on its territory—an issue of significant importance for the country’s energy sector.

With 45 years of experience in nuclear project implementation worldwide, and having led a nuclear company that was a global leader in projects based on US, German, Russian, Chinese, and Canadian technologies, energy expert Đurica Tankosić believes his assessments provide a solid foundation.

Tankosić asserts that Serbia should actively initiate preparations for introducing nuclear power plants into the country’s energy system. Contrary to claims about Serbia’s lack of readiness in terms of personnel for nuclear plant construction, Tankosić argues that the country possesses a critical level of “intellectual capacity” required for project initiation. While Serbia may lack certain nuclear-specific intellectual resources, this gap has historically been filled by external experts during the initial phases of nuclear plant construction in other countries.

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The construction of nuclear plants, to a certain extent, follows the logic of executing complex mega-engineering projects. Typically, nuclear energy project activities span between 12 and 14 years, including four-plus years of preparatory work, three to four years for technology selection and contract negotiation, five to seven years of construction, and over a year for testing and commissioning. Tankosić emphasizes that this timeline allows ample time to prepare the necessary nuclear personnel before construction commences, a process successfully implemented in nuclear projects worldwide.

Presently, Serbia lacks the formal foundations or prepared documentation for deciding on location, type, and technology for a nuclear power plant. To reach such a decision, Tankosić outlines several necessary steps, including assessing the physical and intellectual infrastructure in line with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recommendations, conducting analytical and investigative activities to evaluate location suitability, defining necessary infrastructure for plant operation in Serbia’s energy system, determining ownership modality, contracting type, construction, and financial model.

Additionally, Tankosić notes that Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) are not currently a viable or commercially proven technological solution for Serbia. According to IAEA data, there are approximately 80 SMR projects globally in various stages of design, with none having received licensing for operation in the West—a trend not expected to change in the next five to 10 years.

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