Newbuild: Prague Excludes Rosatom From Dukovany II

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Disintegrating relations between the Czech Republic and Russia led Prague this week to rule out Russian participation in a prospective build-out of new nuclear capacity. Added to the expulsion of 18 Russian diplomats from the Czech capital this was a huge blow to Rosatom whose nuclear exports are a source of enormous pride in Moscow -- and Rosatom unsurprisingly responded with fury, suggesting that Czechia's industrial base will suffer as a consequence of the decision. Both decisions were prompted by a government finding that Russian intelligence officers were responsible for 2014 explosions in a Czech munitions warehouse that killed two Czech citizens. In short order this led to the Apr. 17 expulsion of the diplomats from the Russian embassy in Prague, and two days later the end of an impasse over whether to include Russia's state-owned Rosatom in a preliminary "security assessment" of vendors eager to supply reactors to Dukovany II, an existing nuclear site in the country's southwest (NIW Apr.5'21). These decisions represent a win for anti-Russian forces in a Czech political establishment divided over both the intelligence findings and the nuclear solicitation process. "In view of the facts that have arisen, and in view of the forthcoming security screening of potential suppliers for Dukovany II, the government unanimously decided and approved in its resolution that the sending of the so-called security assessment will be only to suppliers from France, South Korea and the United States," Deputy Prime Minister Karel Havlícek, who also serves as the country's trade and industry minister, told reporters after an Apr. 19 meeting. He added that "this means that the Russian supplier Rosatom will not be contacted or approached as part of the safety assessment." Instead the new resolution directs the government to approach EDF, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power and Westinghouse. Rosatom wasted no time publicly berating Prague for its decision, calling it "anti-market" and "politically motivated" in a statement the same day. "The Russian offer envisioned the involvement of hundreds of Czech and European companies in the project of the Dukovany nuclear power plant expansion project, which could have included contracts worth billions of euros. Thus, by excluding Rosatom from the tender, the Czech authorities are pushing aside their own national industry." Intelligence 'Madness'? The decision also exposed ongoing differences over the Russian issue within Prague's political establishment. Czech President Milos Zeman, who wields significant power mainly from behind the scenes, stridently pushed back against the Czech intelligence assessment that a Russian-supplied reactor would be a security threat. "If you eliminate some bidders, even two out of five, based on the madness of intelligence services, the price of the remaining three who will be in a weaker competitive environment will naturally increase, and the price difference for such a large contract can be in the order of tens of billions of crowns, which will be paid by the Czech taxpayer and no one else," Zeman said in an Apr. 11 interview. He added that "I have some doubts about the quality of our intelligence services." Zeman's interview happened before this week's revelations surrounding the 2014 warehouse explosions. Czech intelligence has now concluded that two agents behind that incident were also involved in the infamous poisoning of two individuals in the UK city of Salisbury in 2018. Russian industry officials generally believe that the episode is being used as a fig leaf for a Washington-directed campaign against Rosatom. "The decision to exclude Rosatom is political and was not made in Prague," argued Atominfo.ru, a well-respected nuclear news and analysis portal in Russia. The site pointed to suggestions credited to US diplomats suggesting that Washington is less interested in seeing US-based Westinghouse win the tender than it is in ensuring that neither Rosatom nor China General Nuclear, which was excluded for similar security reasons in January, win the business (NIW Jan.29'21). Washington isn't holding back either. The US "stands with" Czechia "against Russia’s subversive actions on Czech soil," a US State Department spokesperson tweeted Apr. 18. "We must act firmly in response to Russian actions that compromise the territorial integrity, energy security, or critical infrastructure of our allies and partners." Brussels chimed in with similar views. "The European Union is deeply concerned about the repeating negative pattern of dangerous malign behavior by Russia in Europe," the EU said in an Apr. 19 statement. "Russia must stop with these activities, which violates well-established international principles and norms and threaten stability in Europe." The question now is what the shrinking list of possible vendors means for Dukovany II, particularly given that the 1,200 megawatt versions of the EPR and APR-1400 that EDF and KHNP respectively have on offer are untested and -- to a large extent -- embryonic. This isn't lost on Russia's Atominfo.ru which argued that the departure of the Russians and Chinese essentially leaves the Czechs with the least qualified and most expensive potential vendors. "We'll even risk assuming that the Dukovany tender will end just like the Temelin one -- with nothing,” wrote Atominfo.ru, referring to the fiasco when Prague axed plans in 2014 for newbuilds at the Temelin nuclear site after both Rosatom and Westinghouse had submitted binding offers (NIW Apr.11'14). Phil Chaffee, London, and Gary Peach, New York

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Security Risk , Nuclear, Nuclear Fuel
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