Favourite Westinghouse ejected from Czech nuclear tender

Favourite Westinghouse ejected from Czech nuclear tender
The Dukovany NPP is the proposed site of two new nuclear reactors. / Petr Adamek
By Albin Sybera January 31, 2024

Onetime favourite bidder, the US's Westinghouse, has been thrown out of the next round of the Czech government's massive nuclear tender.

Prime Minister Petr Fiala announced on January 31 that his government will only ask French EDF and South Korean KHNP to submit binding offers for up to four new units at the Dukovany and Temelin nuclear power plants (NPPs), rather than only one reactor with options for more, which was the original plan.

At the end of last October, Westinghouse, EDF and KHNP submitted offers for a new nuclear unit at Dukovany in what is supposed to be the largest investment project in the country’s history, estimated at CZK160bn (€6.4bn) in 2020 prices. The majority-state-owned energy utility CEZ is responsible for the tender.

“The proceedings of the tender are so far showing that delivery of more reactors at the same time could give us a lower price by up to one quarter per one reactor,” Fiala stated at a press conference.

“That is why we have decided to ask for binding offers for delivery of up to four [units] to be submitted,” Fiala continued, saying that “based on those [offers], we will select a supplier and decide if we will have more reactors built or not.”

Fiala added it is still not certain that the construction of four blocks will commence.

Minister of Industry and Trade Jozef Sikela told the media that Westinghouse’s plan did not meet the prescribed criteria. Government representatives also said it was unclear from the Westinghouse offer what subject would be responsible for the quality of work.

EDF and KHNP now have until April 15 to submit binding offers, and CEZ will then have one and a half months to evaluate the offers and inform the government, which is still working with 2036 as the start date for the first new reactor in Dukovany.      

The news of Westinghouse being turned down for the tender comes as a surprise, as the US company is set to supply nuclear fuel to both Dukovany and Temelin, a historic change after decades of Czechia’s dependency on nuclear fuel from Tvel, an arm of Russian state agency Rosatom.

When Westinghouse submitted an offer for a new reactor at Dukovany last October, US Ambassador to Czechia Bijan Sabet expressed the full support of the US government for Westinghouse’s bid.

“We see mutual benefits to both the United States and the Czech Republic,” Sabet stated then, adding that “from a strategic energy security perspective, selecting a US technology would provide the Czech Republic with a reliable source of clean energy that not only will combat climate change and reduce emissions but will be an investment in the Czech people”.

At a press conference on January 31, Sikela also said that “in the upcoming decades, energy consumption will grow significantly”, arguing that the construction of more reactors makes sense.

Czechia’s NPPs currently have six blocks – two blocks, each with 1,000 MW of output, in Temelin, and four with 510 MW each of output in Dukovany.  

Critics, including environmental NGOs and energy experts, have pointed out that investment estimates are underestimated and that the plans come at the expense of cheaper  renewable energy options.