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ChinaChina sidelined for Czech nuclear tender, Russia still in play

Robert Muller
3 minutes read

Czech political parties have agreed Chinese companies should not take part in a tender to build a new nuclear power plant, but the situation on Russian participation has not been resolved, Industry and Trade Minister Karel Havlicek told Reuters.

The government is finalising conditions for a tender to build a 1,200 megawatt (MW) unit at the Dukovany plant to replace older nuclear units nearing the end of their lifespan as well as coal-fired plants that will shut under Europe's climate targets.

The EU and NATO member country's security services have recommended that Russia - expected to be a strong contestant - and China are excluded on national security grounds.

"We have come closer on one issue, we nearly all agree that China at this point is not realistic, now the discussion is whether to allow Russia in some form or not," Havlicek said after a meeting of party leaders on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis has said he wanted a wide political consensus for the project run by state-controlled CEZ, given that it will not be completed until 2036 or later.

Opposition parties said they were not happy Russia remained in play and said they would exclude Russian participation if they win the Czech election in October.

"If Russia poses a security risk ... then it makes no sense," said Petr Fiala, chairman of the centre-right Civic Democratic Party.

Havlicek, Czech President Milos Zeman and business groups have argued that keeping Russia in, at least as part of a consortium, would boost competition in the tender.

Nuclear energy has widespread support in the country, unlike in neighbouring Germany, which is planning to phase out nuclear as well as coal-fired power.

Besides Russia's Rosatom and China's CGN Power, South Korea's KHNP, France's EdF (EDF.PA) and Westinghouse of the United States are seen as potential bidders in the project estimated to be worth at least 6 billion euros ($7.27 billion).

The project is subject to EU state aid approval because the government plans to provide financing at zero or low interest rates.

Electricity from the new plant would be sold at pre-determined prices, with consumers making up the difference if that price is above the market rate.

The Czech Republic is an electricity exporter and the project faces opposition by environmental groups, arguing that it is costly and unnecessary and the country was less ambitious than others in switching to renewable energy.

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