Hopes and fears tied up in ČEZ decision
Posted: February 6, 2013
With the selection of the preferred bidder for the expansion of the Temelín nuclear power plant less than a year away, the war of words between the various hopefuls is heating up.
Westinghouse has leveled stinging criticism at its sole remaining rival, the consortium that includes Atomstroyexport, suggesting the Russians are trying to strong-arm companies into signing up for their bid.
Westinghouse is also engaging in a public relations offensive by making what might be over-optimistic predictions about the benefits Czech companies could enjoy should it be selected. Could Czech steel firms eventually secure major orders to supply the construction of nuclear reactors in North America, as an indirect consequence of Westinghouse winning the Temelín contract? Westinghouse may be suggesting it could happen, but it certainly does not seem probable.
Meanwhile, the third bidder, France's Areva, has not given up the fight, having made another attempt to have the tender process suspended over what it sees as its unfair exclusion from the party, despite the perception its bid was a long way off what the Czech utility ČEZ was looking for.
Added to these intrigues is the question of how the incoming president, Miloš Zeman, could affect the tender, with many thinking - perhaps not without good reason - he will be more sympathetic to the Russian bid.
All of these factors, taken together, seem to raise questions about the degree to which the selection of the preferred bidder will be based upon an objective technical analysis of their submissions.
The project is too big, and the potential costs to Czech consumers too great if the wrong decision is made, for anything other than just such a sober consideration of the advantages and disadvantages of the various bids to be allowed.
Yet when bidders brazenly work to secure positive headlines, when the new president makes clear his intention to meddle in domestic politics, when corruption in public finance remains a major concern and when ČEZ shows itself capable of making bad investments (one needs only look at the mess in Albania), it is very easy to already be cynical about the tender and the question of whether the right decision will be made.