Prague is hoping Brussels will loosen its requirements for picking a nuclear project. Otherwise it may pursue a deal with Russia.
PRAGUE — The Czech Republic looks set for a confrontation with the European Commission — and its anti-nuclear neighbors — over its ambitions to expand nuclear power.
Prague wants to streamline a project to build a new reactor at the Dukovany nuclear power plant, 50 kilometers north of the Austrian border, to replace a Soviet-era reactor. That means persuading Brussels to exempt the project from strict EU rules on government bids.
If it fails, the Czech government is considering striking a nuclear deal with Russia along the same contentious lines as Hungary, which signed with Moscow last year.
The second option would raise trouble for the Commission, which reluctantly approved Hungary’s Paks II nuclear project last year following long negotiations with Budapest. The decision was widely criticized for seeming to appeal to political interestsover technical merits and is now being challenged by Austria for breaching EU state aid rules.
Austria and another Czech neighbor, Germany, strongly oppose any expansion of nuclear power in Europe.
Like the Hungarians, the Czechs could argue that Rosatom is best placed to replace the existing Russian reactor. On top of that, Moscow can offer financing for projects it sees as strategically important, and it has strong political backing in Prague following the reelection of openly pro-Russian President Miloš Zeman in January.
And Rosatom has the advantage of being able to offer nuclear technology tried and tested in Russia, making its project in Hungary cheaper than Areva’s under construction in Britain, for example.
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