The first Monday in October was originally supposed to be the D day of the tender, when the definitive bids for the hundred billion contract in Dukovany and possibly in Temelín would be submitted. In the end, the trio of Dukovany suitors – in addition to EDF, North American Westinghouse and South Korean KHNP – were given a month longer for the final sprint.
“We were very surprised when this postponement came at the last minute. We were ready, it was essential for us to meet the deadlines, because we want to build a relationship based on trust with ČEZ. First, we want to gain the trust of ČEZ and then this contract,” said EDF Vice President Vakis Ramany in Prague.
According to unofficial information, the postponement occurred at the request of Westinghouse. But he did not comment on it, he has basically not communicated with the Czech media in recent weeks.
Bidders finish not only with bids, but also in lobbying efforts. The nuclear tender is also linked to Prague’s strategic and diplomatic visions. The French emphasize the European dimension of cooperation, the Americans emphasize security, and the Koreans mainly the technological dimension. All three then promise that they will maximally involve and help develop the Czech industry.
The intensifying competition between the French and the Americans seems increasingly clear.
The French state company was supported by the French ambassador in Prague, Alexis Dutertre. At Monday’s press conference, which took place in elaborate scenes and under the slogan “EDF: New energy for the Czech Republic”, it was once again clear that Paris is betting on the European dimension of cooperation.
Diplomatic tug-of-war about Dukovany
Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala received Korean Prime Minister Han Duk-soo with military honors at the Straka Academy on Tuesday. The timing of a few weeks before the deadline for the Dukovany tender could not be more “obvious”.
Prestigious state meetings are part of the lobbying for obtaining a hundred billion contract. The activity of the Koreans contrasts with the American distance in the diplomatic field – Fiala has been waiting for a year to be received in the White House by US President Joe Biden.
„The prime minister would certainly also meet with the American or French president or the French prime minister if they visited Prague. So we treat everyone the same and everyone is equally welcome“, a high-ranking source close to the prime minister told Seznam Zprávám.
An important part of the strategic part about Dukovany is the rivalry between the Westinghouse companies and the Korean KHNP. A North American company is suing in the US, claiming that the Koreans are essentially selling its technology. Westinghouse historically helped build South Korea’s nuclear industry.
And while the Americans choose tactics to strain the Czech government, the Koreans bet on political rapprochement. The visit took place at an attractive time also from the point of view of geopolitics – at a time when North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un is adjusting his weapons plans with Russian ruler Vladimir Putin at a meeting in the east of Russia.
Westinghouse itself chooses “no comment” tactics and tension tactics for a long time. According to Seznam Zpráv sources, he is critical of the tender format – he does not like participating with the Koreans, with whom he has a legal dispute, and at the same time he is supposed to argue that the original tender was tailor-made for Russia’s Rosatom and favors state-owned companies.
“EDF is ready, it has the full support of the French government, and we hope that the Czech Republic will choose the European path. We have a long cooperation ahead of us within the framework of the European nuclear alliance,” said Dutertre.
The core has been bringing Paris and Prague together for a long time. In particular, thanks to the “heavy weight” of France, the Czech Republic co-enforced the inclusion of nuclear energy among green energy sources within the European Union’s taxonomy – despite the opposition of some EU countries.
Ramany from EDF emphasized that the company offers independent European technology to the Czech Republic. “EDF has complete ownership and control over the design of the EPR1200 reactors: the basic and detailed designs are carried out within EDF, subsidiaries and local partners,” he said.
EDF, or rather its subsidiary, has a history of cooperation with Russia’s Rosatom and already faced security questions in the Czech Republic in this connection before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Ramany previously stated in an interview with Seznam Zrávami that the war changed their perspective on cooperation with the Russians. The subsidiary Framatome is, however, to continue to participate in the construction of the Hungarian power plant Paks II, which – even after the Russian aggression in Ukraine – is to be led by Rosatom.
Nauzal has been drawing attention for a long time to the fact that what started as a tender for one block in Dukovany is increasingly taking the shape of an order for four reactors in total – not only in Dukovany, but also in Temelín.
The French also announced on Monday that they are launching a Czech-French academy to create a new generation of qualified workforce for the Czech Republic’s nuclear ambitions. It is obvious that the applicants for Dukovany are outpacing the declared Czech ambition to become a “little big” nuclear power in the times of the renaissance of atomic energy, which is supposed to replace non-ecological coal resources, especially in the center and east of Europe. And part of it is the plan to participate in the renewal and further construction of the energy infrastructure in Ukraine.
For example, the Americans organized a Czech-American nuclear forum in Prague at the end of September. In addition to the representative of Westinghouse, there were also companies involved in the development of small modular nuclear reactors. For example, Holtec vice president Rick Springman said in Prague that his parent company not only wants to supply small modular reactors to the Czech Republic, but is also considering moving part of its production there.
What Westinghouse offers
The American nuclear industry was courting in Prague this week. But the talk was more about small reactors than the big ones for Dukovany and Temelín. At the same time, the giant tender for traditional reactors is reaching the final stage.
The Koreans immediately sent the prime minister
In a high-level lobbying game, the Koreans immediately sent their Prime Minister Han Duk-soo to Prague. After the meeting with Prime Minister Petr Fiala, the two politicians calculated a number of areas of modern technology in which the two countries could cooperate in addition to the core: in the defense industry, electromobility or high-speed railway.
An essential moment of the entire tender is the competitive dispute between Westinghouse and KHNP. Westinghouse is suing the Koreans in American courts for the protection of intellectual property – the Americans were at the birth of the Korean nuclear industry. Last week, the first decision in this dispute was made, when the District Court in Washington sided with KHNP. But Westinghouse plans to appeal, according to a statement.
The rivalry between the USA and France is clearly emerging in the Czech Republic. Both countries are important allies for the Czech Republic, and the government faces a difficult choice with whom to build nuclear blocks. Both companies, EDF and Westinghouse, already supply fuel to Czech nuclear power plants today.
Representatives of the French company confirmed on Monday that they are possibly ready to build four blocks. “In addition to the construction of the fifth unit in Dukovany, EDF is actively supporting the extension of the Czech program to three more units and is working on an optimization method within the serial construction: the first pair of EPR1200 units in Dukovany 5 and 6, followed by a pair of EPR1200 units in Temelín 3 and 4,” they said representatives of EDF.