November 13, 2019 / 6:24 PM / a month ago

UPDATE 1-Czechs aim to pick supplier for new nuclear power unit by 2022

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PRAGUE, Nov 13 (Reuters) - A supplier for a new unit at Czech utility CEZ’s Dukovany nuclear power plant should be chosen by the end of 2022, Prime Minister Andrej Babis said on Wednesday.

The Czech government, which owns 70% of CEZ, has been locked in discussions with the utility for years over how to expand nuclear power and to replace aging blocks due to end in the decades ahead.

Czech nuclear power production covered roughly half of the country’s electricity consumption last year.

A previous tender was cancelled in 2014 after CEZ failed to get state guarantees safeguarding its investment in the multi-billion dollar project and the two sides are still working out how to break the deadlock.

According to the government’s updated timeline, which brings forward the choosing of a supplier, construction should start in 2029 and be completed by 2036.

CEZ chief executive Daniel Benes, speaking alongside Babis, said the company should have a tender ready by next June and expects offers in 2021, from up to five bidders.

Benes said market estimates for the new unit’s cost ranged from 140 billion to 160 billion crowns ($6.92 billion) but a final price would come out of the tender.

The state and CEZ are finalising a contract for the first phase of the project under which CEZ, as investor, would be able to hand the project to the state under certain conditions if the project became too expensive.

Benes said ideally the contract would be concluded in the first quarter of next year and prepared in a way to protect the rights of minority shareholders, many of whom have concerns over the high cost of the project.

He added the contract should include a way of protecting company interests and the profitability of the project for CEZ.

According to media reports, six firms have previously shown interest in building the new nuclear unit or units - China’s CGN, Russia’s Rosatom, Korea’s KHNP, France’s EDF, Westinghouse, and the Atmea consortium of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and EDF. ($1 = 23.1240 Czech crowns) (Reporting by Jason Hovet Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

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