* Wants Areva, South Korean firm to bid for Temelin in new
* Current tender involves Westinghouse, Russian-led
* Project being undermined by low power prices
* President does not rule out price guarantees under new
By Jan Lopatka
PRAGUE, April 9 A tender for the $10-15 billion
expansion of the Czech Republic's Temelin nuclear power plant
should be wound down and replaced with a new contest with more
bidders, President Milos Zeman said on Wednesday.
The plan to build two new nuclear reactors at the site has
been undermined by falling power prices and the government's
unwillingness to provide price guarantees to Temelin's owner,
Zeman, a former prime minister who does not hold much
executive power but often weighs in on major economic and
political issues, said he would like to see France's Areva
and an entrant from South Korea take part in a new
He also suggested that, if a second, bigger tender went
ahead, the government might be willing to consider underwriting
the plant's generating costs.
The sole bidders in the current tender for the two 1,200 MW
reactors are Toshiba unit Westinghouse and a consortium
including Russia's Atomstroyexport.
Areva was excluded from the contest, which is being run by
the majority state-owned CEZ, due to a failure to meet CEZ's
conditions, a decision it is disputing.
The French firm did not immediately return a call seeking
comment on Zeman's remarks.
CEZ has been cooling on the investment due to rising costs
and falling energy prices, which it says make the plan
economically unviable without government support.
Zeman said a new tender with four rather than two entrants
offered "a chance to lower the price," he said.
He did not name the South Korean firm but it was the first
time a company from South Korea has been mentioned in connection
with Temelin. A representative of Korea Electric Power Corp
(KEPCO) was part of a South Korean delegation to the
Czech capital this week.
Zeman said once bids were in, the government could look
again at the possibility of providing some aid via a contract
for difference - a system under which a fixed price would be set
for power generated at the new plant.
If market prices were lower, the government would cover the
difference. If prices rose above that level, the plant's
operator would pay the spread to the government.
European wholesale electricity prices have more than halved
since the start of the euro zone crisis. The benchmark one-year
forward rate fell from nearly 90 euros per megawatt in July 2008
to around 34 euros. That is a fraction of the level
CEZ sees as break-even.
CEZ Chief Executive Daniel Benes told Czech Television on
Monday CEZ would stop the current tender if the government did
not agree to price guarantees by June.
He told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday there was no
way for CEZ to push ahead without state aid.
Industry and trade Minister Jan Mladek has said that one
option was for a fully state-owned entity to take over the
(Additional reporting by Jason Hovet and Robert Muller; Editing
by John Stonestreet)