The Czech Ministry of Industry and Trade on 25 March approved further steps in the preparation of a new nuclear plant at the site of the Dukovany NPP. This deferred the tender until after elections for a new government in October, and also excluded China as a possible candidate while allowing participation by Russia. Opposition political factions within parliament had been pressing the government to exclude both China and Russia arguing they presented a security risk.
The Ministry said the launch of the tender will be preceded by a detailed phase of safety assessment of the individual candidates. Potential bidders will be invited by the investor, Elektrárna Dukovany II, (100% owned by power utility CEZ) to submit information to meet the safety requirements by the end of November this year. CEZ will then submit this information to the Government, which will decide which candidates will be invited to submit tenders.
Elektrárna Dukovany II “will now contact the French EDF, the Korean KHNP, the Russian Rosatom and the Canadian-American Westinghouse, with a request to provide summary information on how they will meet the safety requirements for the supplier of the new nuclear power plant”. This will include the structure in which they intend to submit a bid, naming the main contractor, the main subcontractors and possibly members of a consortium or joint venture. Furthermore, it must indicate the ownership structure of the main contractor and members of the consortia, including financial details. It must satisfy fulfilment of requirements from the point of view of cyber safety, requirements for control systems from the point of view of nuclear safety, local and supplier-independent service, quality control in the whole supply chain, technology transfer, and more.
“In order to process summary information concerning the fulfilment of safety requirements, tenderers will have the opportunity to become acquainted with the detailed technical specification of the contracting authority's requirements for a new nuclear source, based on the preliminary documentation for the tender. This will allow them to start preparing for the tender itself,” the Ministry noted.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Industry and Trade and Transport Karel Havlícek said: "We are launching the last phase of the tender. Based on a discussion with representatives of the investor, security forces or political parties, we decided to carry out the phase of the so-called Security Assessment before the start of the tender itself. The final decision will be up to the next government, which will have maximum information thanks to this procedure." He added: “With this step, we are reaching out to those who in any way doubted the fulfilment of safety requirements, at the same time we will not significantly delay the course of the tender. Tenderers can already work on their projects, supply chain and other components of the offer as they obtain the additional information they need. The dates for the start of construction in 2029 and the commissioning of the new unit in 2036 thus remain unchanged."
The schedule of further steps in the preparation of a new nuclear power plant in Dukovany are as follows:
- April 2021 - December 2021: safety assessment phase of potential applicants;
- December 2021: the government approves a list of candidates for the call for tenders;
- 2022 - 2023: the course of the tender and negotiations with suppliers on offers;
- 2023: approval of preferred supplier;
- 2023 - 2024: negotiation, finalisation and signing of a contract with a preferred supplier;
- 2029: start of construction;
- 2036: commissioning.
The government in 2020 approved the model of financing the new nuclear unit in Dukovany for approximately €6 billion ($7bn). Earlier in March, the government's commissioner for nuclear energy, Jaroslav Míl, stated that the new nuclear unit in Dukovany will be fully financed by the state.
Right-wing opposition parties objected strongly to the Ministry’s proposal, specifically the inclusion of Russia in the tender preparations. They cited objections to both Russia and China raised last year by the security and intelligence agencies, and also concern expressed by the European Commission. Nineteen senators and deputies asked Prime Minister Andrej Babiš Babiš to dismiss Havlícek.
Foreign Minister Tomáš Petrícek also disagrees with Havlícek's proposals. "Addressing the four applicants for Dukovany with the so-called ‘security questionnaire’ is de facto an announcement of the tender. I do not understand why CEZ and the Ministry of Industry and Trade ignore reports from the security forces of our state, "he told Respekt and Aktuálne.cz. In a letter sent to Havlícek, the Minister of the Interior Jan Hamácek emphasising the comments of the security community should be taken into account in the tender.
Dana Drábová, the chairwoman of the State Office for Nuclear Safety (SÚJB) told CTK on 26 March, that the procedures set out by the Ministry were “not standard, but they are not reprehensible” She added: “There is an effort to make progress - which is worthwhile, given that the shutdown of coal-fired power stations is just around the corner. But on the other hand, I do not know if provoking such a wave of political disagreement is helpful, because the project, if it is to be at least relatively successful, needs a broad consensus."
She added that it was unclear why only China was excluded. "From the point of view of the critical point of the security community, Russia and China are in exactly the same situation" she said adding that she would understand if the tender were addressed to all five interested parties, including Russia and China, or to neither of them.
"Each of the five potential candidates, even though China is apparently on the sidelines, is able to deliver a safe, reliable, advanced project that will sooner or later receive a construction permit. The delays are probably necessary from my point of view, because if Czechia is to build it, and I think it should, then it really requires an agreement that will survive more than one election period.”
She continued: “I do not know what the government will be, whatever it may be, after the autumn elections. But if the new government decides that it wants to continue in different way, that it wants not to invite some bidders to the tender, then this step will complicate it for me.” The discussion continues.