* Clinton says not shy about pressing Westinghouse's case
* Contract would bring thousands of jobs to U.S.
* US officials stress reduction of reliance on Russia
By David Brunnstrom and Jason Hovet
PRAGUE, Dec 3 U.S. Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton sought to convince Czech leaders on Monday to pick U.S.
firm Westinghouse over a Russian rival for a $10 billion nuclear
power project, the country's biggest-ever public energy tender.
U.S. officials traveling with Clinton, who will also meet
Prime Minister Petr Necas, said the Temelin nuclear project
could create up to 9,000 U.S. jobs and would help ease the
former Soviet-bloc nation's energy reliance on Russia.
Majority state-owned Czech firm CEZ has applied to
build two new reactors at its 2,000 megawatt Temelin nuclear
power plant, which would be one of the largest public
investments in Europe this decade.
Westinghouse, a unit of Japanese firm Toshiba Corp,
is competing with Russia's Atomstroyexport, which is bidding in
a consortium with a Russian-owned Czech group.
"We are not shy about pressing the case for Westinghouse to
expand the Temelin nuclear power plant, because we believe that
company offers the best option for the project in terms of
technology and safety," Clinton said in a news conference after
meeting with Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg.
"So we clearly hope that Westinghouse will receive the
utmost consideration as this process moves forward."
CEZ, central Europe's biggest energy group, with a market
capitalization of $17.8 billion, wants to pick a winner and sign
a contract by the end of 2013.
CEZ threw out a bid from France's Areva in
October, saying the company failed to meet "crucial
requirements". The Czech anti-monopoly office has said CEZ
cannot sign a contract until it rules on Areva's appeal.
PRESSING THE CASE
U.S. officials said formal negotiations between the two
bidders and the Czech government are expected to start in
"There will be the opportunity for the Secretary to support
... Westinghouse," a senior State Department official told
"It could be great in lots of ways - for American jobs,
American companies, for energy security and diversity in the
Czech Republic, for jobs in the Czech Republic and for a
scientific and innovation partnership with the United States."
The United States is stressing Westinghouse's safety record,
given concerns about nuclear reactors following the Fukushima
disaster in Japan last year. Officials will also underline the
advantage of reducing the Czech Republic's reliance on Russia
Clinton will also discuss energy security with EU officials
in Brussels on Wednesday.
The secretary of state's visit to Prague follows U.S.
Assistant Secretary of Commerce Nicole Lamb-Hale's trip last
week. Lamb-Hale said the U.S. Export-Import Bank would be
interested in financing the deal if Westinghouse is chosen.
The Czech bid to expand its nuclear capacity has run into
opposition from neighbours Austria and Germany. The latter plans
to close its nuclear power plants in the wake of Fukushima.
According to U.S. officials, the Czech Republic currently
gets 60 percent of its oil, 70 percent of its gas and 100
percent of its nuclear fuel from Russia.
Many Czech officials fear an over-reliance on Russian energy
will put their country under too much influence from its former
The Russian bidders have sought to allay Czech fears about
energy reliance on Moscow and have stressed there would be high
participation by domestic firms if they won the tender.