One by one the events unfold while the battle for Temelin is waged. The Czech government took a decision to build the third and the fourth power generating units of the nuclear energy plant in the vicinity of Temelin (24 km from Czech Budejovice). The reactors are Soviet VVER-1000 type, the price is $15 million. The decision sparked the emotions becoming kind of a political scandal.
The MIR.1200 Consortium is an alliance of Czech Skoda JS and Russian Gidropress and Atomstroyexport, the subsidiaries of Russian firm Rosatom. Another bidder in the tender beside the Czech-Russian consortium is the US-Japanese company Westinghouse…
In 2013 a final decision is to be taken based on the results of tender. On January 29 Denny Roderick, president of Westinghouse, accused the other bidder of «disingenuous» activity, suggesting it was trying to pressure firms into aligning themselves with the Russian bid. “It's disrespectful. They're creating this illusion that if you don't sign up with the Russians, you won't get any work. It's going to take this entire country to build this plant. This is one of the biggest projects the Czech Republic has ever attempted», he said.
It’s an open secret the Czech-Russian consortium plans to give 70% of orders to local Czech enterprises. It means the investments will remain in the country, a solid argument in favor of the bidder.
Mr. Roderick hails from Pittsburg, the capital of US steel industry that he’s closely tied to and defends interests of. It’s enough to remember his participation in the Ostrava conference funded by Westinghouse called “Completion of the Temelнn Power. Station: Opportunities for Czech Industry”. He announced Westinghouse would source 80,000 metric tons of steel from Czech companies, the weight of three Eifel towers (Mr. Roderick never mentioned it was just 1% of overall steel production in the country). He said, «The use of most materials and other commodities from local sources is natural for us, because it is also economically more effective than to import these materials». Rosatom's spokesman Pavel Vlcek told CTK. «We can see the main benefit for the Czech industry above all in purchasing products and services with high value added from Czech companies», Vlcek said. Many a time Rosatom proved that its words matched the deeds. In 2007- 2011 the Russian company made 2.5 billion crown purchases in the Czech Republic, the figure was as high as over 3 billion crowns in the first nine months of 2012.
The intent of Rosatom to fund the project exasperates Westinghouse. The Russia’s consortium could become a co-owner of the project or it can grant a loan to cover the expenses of Temelin extension. According to Denny Roderick, it’s a violation of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development standards. Westinghouse can get a loan with very beneficial interest rates from the Export-Import Bank of the United States or the Japan International Bank for Cooperation (JIBC), but it will hardly make the Russian bid less attractive.
The fact Westinghouse lashes out against Rosatom is part of US general policy aimed at keeping away or, sometimes even squeezing out, Russian business from Central and Eastern Europe.
It is propitious to remember how the Bulgarian government led by Boiko Borisov had to resign. It was caused by street protests over high energy prices. The hikes were provoked by the imposed agreements with US energy companies AES and Contour Global purchased and invested into two local power stations and then lobbied a 15 years contract. All these years Bulgarian national energy company has to buy out all the production at exclusively high prices while there is no alternative.
The US administration is involved in a complicated scheme it has plotted to gain success in the Czech Republic. The United States resorts to outright pressure. By the end of 2012 Oak Ridge National Laboratory, managed for the United States Department of Energy, transferred 75 kilograms of fluoride salt mixture to Czech Nuclear Research Institute for experiments. The preliminary condition for the transaction was no connection to Russian business among founders and leaders of the Institute. The Czechs gave up; the fluoride salt was transferred only after a ЉKODA JS representative was made leave the supervisory board. Russian OMZ company is a ЉKODA JS 16% shareholder.
Western competitors attack Soviet reactors and Russian nuclear technologies as a whole for lack of safety. The Chernobyl 1986 accident is usually cited as an example. The European Union demanded to close Ignalinsk power plant because it had a Chernobyl type reactor. It was almost a prime condition for Lithuania’s entry into the EU. Vilnius complied. The European Union offered no due compensation: Lithuania was offered only €210 million instead of 770 requested to close the facility in 2014-2017. After that Lithuania initiated power plants checks in the countries – members of the European Union.
Seven experts from the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) from Armenia, Hungary, Slovakia and Russia conducted a Temelin inspection at the beginning of this March. The conclusion will hardly make Westinghouse happy. Organization and management, professional qualifications, fire control, training of staff and radiation control – everything was reported to be up to standards, the plant is reliable and safe.
Still the attacks against the Czech Russian consortium never stop. Visiting Prague last December, the US Secretary of State put it straight, «We're not shy about pressing the case for Westinghouse». According to her, Westinghouse offers the most reliable technology and the best security guarantees in the tender for the completion of the nuclear power plant in Temelin. She mentioned the fact of the Czech economy’s heavy dependence on energy exports from the Russian Federation, with all of its nuclear fuel, over 60% of its oil and 70% of its natural gas coming from Russia. The Westinghouse choice would open job opportunities for Czech and US companies and workers.
The Czech Republic is not unanimous on the issue. The European Union and NATO membership presupposes commitments. But nothing is decided as yet.
Michal Snobr, a nuclear energy expert, says if Russians win the bid, their clout on Czech energy sector will grow. And he sets the example of Germany that closely cooperates with Russia in this field. The analyst doesn’t think that Russia’s win will have a negative effect.
Nuclear energy is going through hard times in the United States. Experts say the US is a whole generation behind in nuclear technology, be it fuel or reactors. By the 2030s, when the country is predicted to become energy self-sufficient thanks to shale gas production, all nuclear stations will be put out of service.
Now, let’s take a look at Rosatom. Russia is leading in plants construction abroad (16% of world facilities being built). At present, Russia is building two plants in India, two in Bulgaria, one in Iran. For the first time in the country’s history Russia launched at once two new reactors at China’s Tianwan nuclear power plant in 2007. It immediately made Tianwan the largest plant in China.