The Czech Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security on 15 December called on the government not to allow the participation of Russia and China in the competition for completion of the Dukovany nuclear power plant – even as part of a consortium.
This came after an announcement earlier in December by the Ministry of Industry and Trade postponing the tender for the construction of a new unit at the Dukovany from the end of this year until 2021, following a meeting of the Standing Committee on the Construction of New Nuclear Facilities.
Currently four possible options for the tender are being considered, which will be studied by the leaders of the parliamentary parties at the end of January, when the final decision on the preferred option will be made.
In July, the government signed a framework agreement for the construction of the new unit with power company CEZ and the project company Elektrarna Dukovany II. Under this agreement CEZ was to hold a tender for the supply of a nuclear power unit, enter into a contract and obtain all the necessary licences by 2024 so that the unit could begin operation in 2036. The government agreed to provide guarantees for any political or legal risks that the project may face. However, opposition parties have argued that using Russian or Chinese companies could pose a security risk.
CEZ CEO Daniel Beneš said in a ministry statement: “We expected the tender would be initiated by the end of this year. Of course, the state security requirements are acknowledged in the tender. From a technical and business point of view, it is more or less ready. The geopolitical aspect must be determined by political representation. However, we have little time to meet climate targets and ensure sufficient electricity in the future.”
Five companies have expressed interested in building new nuclear power units - China General Nuclear, EDF, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, Rosatom and Westinghouse.
The four options now being considered for the tender are:
- all five currently interested bidders will be invited to participate;
- three applicants will be invited, excluding Russian and Chinese firms;
- the selection procedure will be postponed until the end of next year's parliamentary elections (October 2021);
- Russia and China will be allowed to participate in consortia of suppliers, but the other members must be from the EU and NATO.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Industry, Trade and Transport Karel Havlicek said that the Standing Committee favours the fourth option. “This is an option will secure a competitive tender; we can reduce the price and at the same time protect the interests of state security,” he told the Czech news agency CTK.
The Standing Committee also examined two other issues causing complications - preliminary negotiations with the European Commission and the funding model for new nuclear capacity in accordance with Government Decision 755 of 20 July; and preparation of a support mechanism within the framework of the draft law on the transition of the Czech Republic to low-carbon energy, which is now being discussed by the Chamber of Deputies.
The Industry Ministry said the government needs legislation to align the tender with the European Commission, but it is now unlikely to be decided until late January when the Standing Committee meets again.
Prime Minister Andrei Babiš has said nuclear energy is key to ensuring the country's self-sufficiency and energy security but that a common position should be found between the government and the opposition on how to ensure security interests are satisfied. At the same time Babiš has also said the tender should not be declared too close to the elections. There is also concern that if the tender is postponed until after the elections the whole project could be dropped.