The Players - an International Team
The US multinational corporation Westinghouse is building a reactor in the Czech Republic which it would never be permitted to build in the US. The Temelin nuclear power plant was under construction by the Russians until the revolution of 1989. The first freely elected Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, Petr Pithart, opposed the project, but under the current administration it was restarted with financial assistance from the US Bank Citicorp and loan guarantees from the US Export-Import Bank (ExIm).
There are serious technical problems with Temelin. Nowhere in the world has this hybrid design of Russian and US reactors been attempted. It is clear that many of the components which will not be replaced are well below western safety standards (which we also think are insufficient). Westinghouse is unable to build any reactors in the US (the last order was over 20 years ago), but they attempt to continue profiting from this technology by exporting it with US government assistance. Temelin is clearly a case of risk export. No commercial bank would take on the risk of a nuclear power project, because they are so often canceled in the West.
Despite all the obvious benefits of a nuclear free Czech Republic, the CEZ-Westinghouse bidding scandal has grown quite bizarre. In summary, Westinghouse was permitted on two distinct occasions to change their bids to CEZ (the Czech Power Utility) for part of the Temelin contract. On one occasion, an unexplained second round of bidding for the identical contract was initiated (with no reason given as to why) and Westinghouse's bid was suddenly slightly lower than the competition which had outbid them before. In another instance, Westinghouse was permitted to increase their bid, presumably to permit additional profits to be taken, but it was still somewhat below the bid competition.
The story has been widely publicized in the Czech press but has not been reported in the west. When the scandal first broke, Livia Klaus, of CEZs Board of directors demanded that whomever leaked the story to the press be punished - she was uninterested in the truth of the allegations. (Ms. Klaus is the wife of the Prime Minister, Vaclav Klaus who has adamantly supported the plant‘s construction.) In another conflict of interest the investigation of this bidding scandal was carried out by the Czech Ministry of Interior (which is headed by a member of PM Klaus's party) and found no evidence worthy of investigation.
At the same time, the free press has run numerous front page articles on the story, including internal documents specifying direct covert payments to CEZ directors from Westinghouse. The front page of the largest Czech Newspaper ,"Today" ran an article presenting information from a document released by an identified ex-CIA agent and Westinghouse consultant Jan Vadlejch saying "Two months ago, Mr. Stanislav Svoboda [Skoda Prague Director] told me and Gabe Toth [chief of Westinghouse relay in Czech Republic] in his office: 'Jan, I gave Mr. Kotyza [CEZ director] 300 000 Crowns [about US$ 18,000] and we will look for sources and ways to provide him more money in future.' "
During the investigation, Vadlejch would later withdral all charges he had made and refused to comment about the incident to the press. Slander charges were brought against him by both Skoda Praha (the largest Czech company involved in Temelin) and the CEZ, but the judge did not award them any damages.
More significantly, Westinghouse hopes that Temelin will be the first of many unfinished Soviet designed reactors in the East it will complete and has admitted so publicly. The US ExIm Bank has ignored the concerns of neighboring Austria about the safety of the plant and was unswayed by letters from over 50 US Congressional Representatives, including the chairs of most of the relevant congressional committees.
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Czech Ministry of Industry
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