France’s Areva, Westinghouse Electric Company in the United States and a Czech-Russian consortium called the MIR.1200 all bid to supply the third and fourth reactors at Temelín, the Czech energy company announced yesterday (3 July).
The Temelín tender is one of biggest in Europe's energy sector and the biggest-ever deal in the Czech Republic, worth at least €7.95 billion, and possibly much more judging by the nuclear industry’s history of delays and cost overruns.
The cost has led the state-controlled ČEZ Group to enter discussions with the government on guarantees for minimum prices for power from the new plant.
ČEZ, a 70% state-owned company worth €15.1 billion, needs to replace some of its coal plants heavy on carbon emissions as they face likely closure after 2020.
ČEZ Chief Executive Daniel Beneš was quoted as saying that as the completion of the Temelín was "a key pillar of ČEZ's strategy". He said he was happy that the company received three bids from “major global vendors of nuclear technologies".
Areva is bidding with its Evolutionary Power reactor (EPR) design and technology. EPR is a generation III+ pressurised water reactor, with four such units under construction in Finland, France and China.
Westinghouse, a subsidiary of Toshiba in Japan, is bidding with its AP1000 two-loop pressurised water reactor, also considered as generation III+.
The MIR.1200 consortium includes the Czech energy company Škoda JS and Russian firms Atomstroyexport and OKB Gidropress, offering VVER-1200 design reactors, also generation III+.
Russian firms supplied the country's six operating reactors, although two include Westinghouse upgrades. That may give the Russian companies some advantage, Czech analysts have said.
Conversely, some see a Russian winner raising concern in a country that takes most of its gas and oil from Russia, a country suspected to play with energy supply as a political tool.
ČEZ is expected to award the final contract in late 2013.
"It is important that we begin the next wave of reactors in Europe as soon as possible. [Temelín] would certainly give European customers more confidence," Westinghouse Regional Vice President for Customer Relations and Sales Mike Kirst said, according to Reuters.
But Austria, a long-time opponent of nuclear power which shares a border with the Czechs just 50 km south of Temelín, fiercely opposes the plan. Experts said that Germany might also put pressure on the Czechs after they themselves decided to give up on atomic power.