Westinghouse win would enhance your energy security, Clinton tells Prague

Hillary Clinton, photo: Filip Jandourek

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Prague on Monday, on the first leg of a European tour. At meetings with Czech officials, Secretary Clinton made a pitch for the US firm Westinghouse, which is in competition with a Russian-led consortium for a multi-billion-dollar Czech nuclear project. She says the US bid offers the best technology and highest security – and would reduce the Czech Republic’s dependence on Russian energy.

Hillary Clinton,  photo: Filip Jandourek
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke to reporters after a meeting with the Czech foreign minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, in Prague on Monday. Clinton’s visit is part of her government’s efforts to lobby for the US firm Westinghouse’s bid to win a 10-billion-dollar contract to build two new blocks at the Temelín nuclear plant in south Bohemia.

“As I conveyed to the minister, the Obama administration strongly supports Westinghouse’s bid to help expand the Temelín nuclear power plant. Given how long term and strategic this investment is, the Czech people deserve the best value, the most tested and trustworthy technology, an outstanding safety record, responsible and accountable management, and job opportunities for Czech companies and workers. Westinghouse offers all that.”

Temelín nuclear power plant,  photo: Filip Jandourek
After the Czech state-owned energy producer ČEZ in October excluded the French firm Areva from the process, two contenders are left: the US-based, Japanese owned Westinghouse, and a consortium led by Russia’s Atomstroyexport. The Russians have promised that up to 70 percent of the work would be awarded to Czech firms.

One concern the Czech government might have if Atomstroyexport wins is that this would increase the country’s energy dependence on Russia. The Czech Republic covers some 75 percent of its gas consumption with imports from Russia, and is also heavily dependant on Russian oil. Secretary Clinton said that was a factor that the Czechs should take into consideration.

“We are encouraging the Czech Republic to diversify its energy source and suppliers in ways are that economically sustainable and environmentally sound, which is an important message for all of our European partners.

“And we are not shy for pressing the case of Westinghouse to expand the Temelín nuclear power plant because we believe the company offers the best option for the project in terms of technology and safety.”

Hillary Clinton,  Karel Schwarzenberg,  photo: Filip Jandourek
The power producer ČEZ is scheduled to announce the winner of the tender process in 2013. If it gets the green light from the Czech government, the expansion should begin in 2016, and be completed in 2025. However, the massive project may never get off the drawing board. Critics say the Czech Republic – one of Europe’s biggest exporters of electricity – does not need additional nuclear reactors. The Czech government, on the other hand, might reconsider the project due to issues surrounding its financing, and the uncertain outlook for longer-term electricity prices.