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Czech govt bars Russia’s Rosatom from nuclear power plant contract tender amid diplomatic row

Czech govt bars Russia’s Rosatom from nuclear power plant contract tender amid diplomatic row

Russia’s nuclear energy corporation Rosatom won’t be invited for a security assessment as a bidder vying to renovate the Dukovany nuclear power plant, the Czech industry minister said, amid the diplomatic spat initiated by Prague.

The Czech government has approved a resolution effectively excluding the Russian company from the $7-billion project, the nation’s industry and trade minister Karel Havlicek confirmed on Monday.

The construction project’s investor, the majority state-controlled Czech utility company CEZ, will now only send a security assessment questionnaire to the remaining three contenders by April 30. The companies vetted by Prague include France’s EDF, South Korean Hydro & Nuclear Power as well as the American-Canadian firm Westinghouse.

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Russia’s Rosatom likely to get barred from $7-bn Dukovany nuclear plant tender, Czech minister says, amid ammo depot blast scandal

“We make it clear that this is an assessment of three eligible suppliers of nuclear technology,” Havlicek told the Czech media, adding that suppliers of critical technologies and materials can only be “an entity from a European Union or a NATO country,” meaning that Rosatom could not enter the project in collaboration with another company or as a subcontractor.

The decision was taken amid an ongoing diplomatic row between Prague and Moscow that followed the Czech government’s decision to expel 18 Russian diplomats on Saturday. Prague claims Russian intelligence officers were involved in an incident at a munitions depot in the village of Vrbetice, some 330 kilometers southeast of Prague, back in 2014.

The depot was rocked by a series of explosions that killed two employees of a private company renting the facility from the military. The Czech authorities said that the embassy staff might also have had a role in the incident, while Moscow denounced all the accusations as absurd. Russia also expelled 20 Czech diplomats in a reciprocal measure.

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“I can't imagine being contacted by Rosatom as part of a security assessment after the last incidents,” Havlicek said earlier on Monday. He added that “none of… the candidates” would pass the assessment with “a supplier from Rosatom.”

Previously, Prague already barred China’s General Nuclear from participating in pre-tender activities. Russia, however, was called a “key energy partner” by Havlicek only in March. Some media reports suggested that NATO and EU security services, as well as Washington, repeatedly called on the Czech government to drop Russia’s bid, citing security issues.

Launched in 1985, the Dukovany nuclear power plant covers around a fifth of the electricity consumption in the Czech Republic. Under the refurbishment project, estimated to cost more than seven billion dollars, the plant will receive a new 1,200 megawatt-strong power unit.

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