Czech Ministers Call for Russian Firm's Exclusion from Energy Bid

Monday, March 10, 2014

Human Rights Minister Says Rosatom Should Not continue with Temelin Bid

PRAGUE—Czech ministers for human rights and defense said on Monday that they think the Russian state-run nuclear engineering company Rosatom should be excluded from a $10 billion tender for new reactors following Moscow's occupation of the Crimean peninsula.

"I personally cannot imagine that the Russians would continue to participate in the tender to expand Temelin," said Jiri Dienstbier Jr, Minister for Human Rights.

In recent days, Czech officials have expressed dismay at Russian forces occupying Crimea, saying it is a violation of international law and harks back to when Soviet-led Warsaw Pact forces invaded Czechoslovakia without warning in 1968. On that occasion, the military remained as an occupying force until the early 1990s.

The Czech Republic has a continuing tender for two new reactors that would double the installed capacity of its Temelin nuclear power plant to roughly 4,000 megawatts by 2025 from the existing 2,000 megawatt capacity.

Czech Defense Minister Martin Stropnicky said he now doubts Russia's participation in the Temelin tender.

"Russia has disappeared from the group of predictable democratic states. What it is doing is not acceptable," Mr. Stropnicky said.

Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka tempered the views of his cabinet-level colleagues, saying he was deeply concerned by the developments in Ukraine but didn't want to suddenly break off all business relationships with Moscow.

"I don't think this situation in Crimea should be the reason to end all our trade ties with Russia," Mr. Sobotka said in a televised interview in response to a reporter's question on whether Russia should be removed from the Temelin tender.

Mr. Sobotka reiterated calls for a diplomatic solution and said innocent citizens of Russia, as well as Ukraine, risk being victimized if the occupation of Crimea leads to an international trade war and sanctions.

Westinghouse Electricity Co., a unit of Japan's Toshiba Corp. 6502.TO 0.00% is the only other company still participating in the Temelin competition.

Czech 70% state-owned utility CEZ, which owns and operates Temelin, was expected to award the tender last year but has delayed the decision until 2015 due to concerns over the economic viability of the plant's expansion.

Current market prices for electricity are roughly €35 per megawatt hour, a level too low to provide a sufficient return on investment, some Czech officials have said.

According to analysts, a market price of roughly €80 to €90 per megawatt hour would be needed to make the new reactors profitable.

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