French company says nuclear plant tender is about experience
Bidding on the lucrative public tender to build two new reactors at ČEZ’s Temelín nuclear power plant opened in October, and the three competitors are lobbying hard to ink contracts with Czech suppliers and contractors to make their bids more attractive when they are submitted next summer. French state-owned Areva is one of the bidders, along with Japanese-owned Westinghouse, which is backed by the United States, and the partnership of Russia’s Atomstroyexport and the Czech Republic’s JS Škoda. Areva Regional Business Development Director Thomas Epron sat down with The Prague Post to discuss Areva’s progress and the tender process in the Czech Republic.
The Prague Post: Where does Areva stand in making cooperation agreements with Czech companies?
Thomas Epron: There are 24 companies that already have agreements to work with Areva, some of which used to work on other EPR [the Areva reactor model] projects around the world. Some of them are nuclear-qualified; some of them are not nuclear qualified, so we are working on their qualifications. So that is the situation today. The situation tomorrow will be discussions with these companies to set up memorandums of understanding. For the Temelín project, most of those will likely be at the beginning of next year.
TPP: Energy envoy Václav Bartuška has said so far he is not convinced any three of the bidders will be able to build on cost and on time. Your own model reactor in Finland has experienced delays and increases in cost. How will your bid address Bartuška’s concerns?
TE: We are working on four EPRs right now, and we are the only ones who are building new reactors in Europe – in Finland, France and two reactors in China.
When the Temelín reactor will start operation between 2023 and 2025, the EPR reactor will have dozens of years of experience per reactor. More importantly, when the Temelín EPR would start to be constructed, there will be EPRs already built that will provide a substantial amount of feedback in terms of construction. This gives a lot of certainty to the project, and that will give a lot of comfort to ČEZ in our ability to build reactors in Temelín.
If you look at the site in China, where we are building two EPRs in parallel, the site is absolutely on cost and on time. We have faced already the first-time kind of experience in Finland and in France, and today we can prove we have learned with the site in China. In that regard, Areva is in a very different situation than its competitors, who have to prove everything.
TPP: The perception in media coverage related to Temelín is that the two other bidders have had much more exposure, and that Areva and France are not lobbying as hard. Why do you think this is?
TE: It has been probably more concentrated on the two other nations that are behind the other bidders, Russia and the United States, because there is a sort of impression of these two really large countries fighting each other, like the two titans, which makes it really exciting in terms of media. Areva is an industrial company, and we don’t do politics. We concentrate on our technical capabilities and the value we can bring to our customer. We concentrate on what is essential rather than looking for this kind of media war, which we don’t want to enter because it’s not our expertise, and it’s not our way of doing business.
TPP: Are you concerned at all that Czech policy regarding the expansion of nuclear power could be affected by anti-nuclear pressure from Austria and Germany?
TE: I’m not a specialist on relations between the Czech Republic, Austria and Germany, but there is a process of environmental impact assessments that the Czech Republic has decided to discuss with Germany and Austria. It’s a normal and regular way of dealing with such things.
TPP: Are you concerned about making such a long-term commitment to build nuclear reactors in the Czech Republic, a country that has a reputation for shaky administrations and frequent changes and reversals of “long-term” strategies?
TE: The project is a private project between a contractor and a company, ČEZ. This relationship will be contractual. The change of policy is an external factor of this relationship between two companies. This is something that will have to be taken into account at the time it happens. Besides that, it is difficult to anticipate, and I don’t see that there is a reputation. The relationship will be between Areva and ČEZ, and it will accommodate policy changes. It is the nature of business. It is the way of doing business.
The Epron File
Title: Central and Eastern Europe regional business development director
Previous position: With Areva since 2004, previously responsible for sales operations within Areva’s transmission and distribution division