EDF and KHNP in running for expanded Czech nuclear tender

01 February 2024

The Czech government has decided to change its tender for new nuclear to binding offers for up to four, rather than one, reactors - and said that it is inviting bids from France's EDF and South Korea's KHNP. The third bidder, Westinghouse, is currently not being included because it "did not meet the necessary conditions".

A press conference was held following the announcement (Image: Czech Government)

Bids from the three companies were submitted in October to ČEZ subsidiary Elektrárna Dukovany II (EDU II ) for a binding offer for a new fifth unit at the Dukovany nuclear power plant plus non-binding offers for three more reactors. The timetable was for the bids to be evaluated by EDU II and a report submitted to the Czech government early in 2024 with the intention of finalising contracts within a year, construction start in 2029 and trial operation in 2036.

EDF proposed its EPR1200 reactor, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power proposed its APR1000 and Westinghouse proposed its AP1000. All three companies have agreements with Czech suppliers to localise work if selected.

But on Wednesday the issue was discussed by a meeting of Petr Fiala's government, with President Petr Pavel taking part, and decided to amend the plan, with the relative costs of building one, versus multiple units, a key factor.

Prime Minister Fiala said: "During the tender, the non-binding offers showed that the construction of several blocks, i.e. up to four blocks in one package, even if it were to be carried out gradually, is economically significantly more advantageous than the construction of only one block, it is also significantly more advantageous than we expected, by up to 25% compared with the construction of only one block."

"From the beginning, the goal of the tender process was to obtain and select the best possible offer for the Czech Republic, both in terms of price, quality and safety of delivery," he added. The tender will now be expanded to be for binding offers for units 5 and 6 at Dukovany and units 3 and 4 at Temelin nuclear power plant.

The two technology providers will now have until 15 April to submit their binding offers, with the assessment and report from EDU II to be submitted to the government by the end of May, with the cabinet slated to make a decision on the proposed supplier by the end of June.

Finance Minister Zbyněk Stanjura said: "Thanks to today's decision, we will be clear about the final price for the possible construction of more reactors at the end of May and we will get the necessary guarantees ... it will also make it possible to more accurately determine the price for possible construction and increase the transparency of the entire process."

ČEZ Group CEO Daniel Beneš said: "We greatly appreciate the fact that three major global suppliers took part in the tender for the new block in Dukovany, and we thank them for their interest. Thanks to them, the entire tender continues in a fair and just way so that we get the best possible offer at the best possible price."

In a briefing note published by the Czech government, it said it wanted all four units to be subject to binding offers to mitigate risks of price escalation and provide the highest degree of certainty on costs. It also wants the new process to lead to bidders to "improve offers" for the first new unit.

It also addressed the question of whether the state will have to buy out the rest of the 70% state-owned ČEZ nuclear operating company, or the part that will build the new blocks. It said: "The government is discussing the issue of the investor model and it will be the subject of the government's decision on the form of construction of the next blocks. It is important above all to ensure that such a step does not lead to a delay in the construction schedule."

On the issue of the Westinghouse bid, the Czech government said they were "very sorry" but the company had failed to comply with key tender requirements because, it said, its offer was not binding and "the entity responsible for the quality of the work is not clearly defined - therefore, the decision was made to now only contact applicants who submitted a binding offer".

However the Czech government then added that "at the same time, no one is eliminated and the tender is not completed until we have a signed EPC contract for the delivery and construction of the new unit ... we are currently contacting bidders who have submitted a binding offer for EDU 5 and non-binding options for other blocks to make those offers binding. Westinghouse has not yet submitted a binding offer in accordance with the solicitation documentation".

There has not yet been comment from Westinghouse in response to the announcement. On Tuesday Westinghouse, together with its construction partner Bechtel, signed an agreement with the Czech Energy Alliance to establish a working group to facilitate the involvement oif Czech companies if it was selected.

There has been an on-going legal case involving Westinghouse and KHNP, with the US firm filing a claim that the APR1400 design includes intellectual property licensed by Westinghouse and requires its permission before being transferred to other countries considering deploying the design. In its statement, the Czech government said: "We are following the development of the dispute. We requested and at the same time obtained from the bidders confirmation of the ownership of the rights to the offered technology, both during the security assessment and in the current offers. Tender participants had to prove that they are the owners and suppliers of nuclear technology."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News