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31. 10. 2023

Getting to the Core: Dukovany NPP Bidders through the Media Lens

Author

Marek Columby, Data Analyst

The Czech Republic had long planned expanding its nuclear capacity and it finally materialized on March 13, 2022, when the company ČEZ (a majority state-owned Czech energy company) announced a tender to build two new reactors in the NPP (Nuclear Power Plant) Dukovany. The final decision is expected in 2024. Three companies submitted their bids: the US Westinghouse, a French state company EDF, and the Korean KHNP. Russian and Chinese bidders had been excluded from the tender on national security grounds in 2021.

The country has a long history of nuclear energy production: it opened its first NPP in 1985 and has been operating six reactors ever since (four in Dukovany and two in Temelin). The current Czech energy mix stands as follows (data from 2022):

  • lignite 45.70%;
  • nuclear 40.95%;
  • natural gas 5.86%;
  • 5.46% renewables (3.34 % biomass, 1.47 % solar, 0.63 % water, etc.) with per capita consumption around 44,242 kWh.

Semantic Visions decided to map the PR and media activities of the three bidders through media monitoring in 12 languages, using SV tools. Here is a short summary of the findings covering the period since March 17, 2022, when the tender was officially announced. 

According to our data, Westinghouse has 1318 mentions, EDF 528, and KHNP has 318 articles. The generous coverage of the first two bidders is owing to their previous history of involvement in the Czech nuclear industry.

A closer look at the three individual bidders

The US bidder: Westinghouse Electric Company

The US bidder, Westinghouse Electric Company, which filed for bankruptcy in 2017 and was later acquired by Brookfield Business Partners, offers nuclear products and services to utilities, including nuclear fuel, service and maintenance, instrumentation, control and design of nuclear power plants. Its Vogtle (Georgia, US) Unit 3 nuclear reactor entered commercial operation in July this year, however, the project is seven years late and $17 billion over budget.

The media coverage relating to the Dukovany bid reveals the accentuation of the security partnership and long-term cooperation between the two countries. Westinghouse had been involved in the Temelin NPP in the 90s when in charge of replacing the entire I&C (instrumentation/control) systems – the first time that Western digital I&C was integrated with Russian reactor technology – and the radiation monitoring and diagnostic systems, besides supplying fuel for the reactor. In 2021 Westinghouse Electric signed a nine-year agreement on the modernization of control and control systems at the Temelín nuclear power plant and from 2024 Westinghouse and the French Framatome will start supplying the fuel to NPP Temelin. Further, following the Russian aggression in Ukraine, ČEZ signed a deal with Westinghouse to supply nuclear fuel for the Dukovany too, starting in 2024.

Westinghouse PR activities

Their PR activities included Supplier Symposiums organized by Westinghouse Electric Company and Bechtel Power Corp. in 2021, 2022, and in February 2023, with the participation of the US Ambassador, hosting representatives of 55 Czech companies. Together they discussed the significant opportunity for local enterprises to build  pressurized water reactors NPPs. 

In an interview with the US Ambassador, he emphasized the “national security aspect” of the potential Dukovany deal and spoke about the “strategic energy connection” between the two countries and the importance of “energy security and national security that cannot be separated”. He further stressed that the NPP expansion deal is “not just a tender, but relations with a strategic partner for the next fifty to one hundred years.”

Westinghouse signed in May 2023 an agreement setting a plan for the delivery of Poland’s first NPP with Bechtel and Polskie Elektrownie Jądrowe (PEJ) and in September 2023 Westinghouse and Bechtel announced the signing of a formal agreement to partner on the design and construction of NPP at the Lubiatowo-Kopalino.

The issue of the lawsuit by Westinghouse, filed in 2022 in Federal court with the intention to block a potential deal for their competitor KHNP to sell reactors to Poland, has been cited repeatedly. The Washington court dismissed Westinghouse’s IP lawsuit in September which could lift some pressure on the Korean bidder regarding its export of nuclear reactors. 

Westinghouse, in the meantime, signed in 2022 a contract for AP1000 nuclear power plants) projects in Poland, with a perspective to build several small modular reactors (SMRs) in the future. 

The French bidder: EDF

The French state-owned energy giant EDF operates 19 NPPs in France, covering 68% of the country’s energy needs, and is currently building two nuclear projects: one in France, and two units in the UK, with other two NPPs in preparation, initially with the Chinese CGN. EDF’s projects in Olkiluoto, Finland, and Flamanville, France, have been ridden with delays and cost overruns. 

EDF Vice President Vakisasai Ramany emphasized technological independence from the US nuclear solution (a problem faced by Korea’s KHNP). Roman Zdebor, the EDF representative in Prague and a former member of the board of directors of ČEZ, mentioned the same technical norms and standards that are used in the Czech Republic and France. Last but not least, the French representatives underlined the preparation of the local government and businesses for the “nuclear restart”, expecting to hire 15,000 new employees per year, of which 10,000 jobs should be created directly in the EDF concern. The involvement of the Czech suppliers in the project should stand around 65 per cent.

EDF’s Strategy for Czech Nuclear Bid

EDF promises to deliver value to the Czech nuclear industry, the Czech economy and the entire society. They refer to a long-term Czech-French partnership, guaranteeing safe and clean electricity for the future. In their own words:

“EDF’s conviction that building robust, comprehensive and long-term relationships with European partners and allies is the most effective sustainable way to maximize the positive effect of nuclear development in Europe.”

In their effort to win the bid, they organized EDF Supplier Academies aiming to prepare Czech companies for participation in the construction of new nuclear units with EDF technologies. Apart from running an EDF Supplier Academy, the French company organized in May a conference entitled “New Dukovany NPP: Business, jobs, education” presenting opportunities and challenges for the Třebíč region, introducing the first partial results of a socio-economic study for the Třebíč region. The PR team has been posting promotional articles in the press, supporting the French bid and, favoring a low-emission energy mix based on a combination of nuclear and renewable sources and underlining the important strategic long-term support and the effective use of the entire potential of the lifetime of existing nuclear blocks.

EDF provides a complex energy mix: it has stakes in many energy projects around the world championing a low-emission energy mix based on a combination of nuclear and renewable sources

The French bid is backed by the French government and the visit by President Macron to Prague is expected this fall. The French Embassy in the Czech Republic, in cooperation with EDF, in October  2023 announced the establishment of the Czech-French Nuclear Academy, a new initiative whose aim is to accelerate the training of highly qualified personnel in the nuclear energy industry.

A Czech-French workshop “Barrande” took place in November 2022 focusing on Czech-French cooperation in research and development in the field of nuclear physics.

EDF’s Global and Diplomatic Initiatives

EDF announced in March 2023 that it had submitted a response to Slovenian GEN energija’s request for information as part of a process for the JEK 2 project in Krško NPP launched in October 2022. EDF offered EPR1200 technology with the reactor of III+ generation, the same as planned for the Dukovany NPP.

In an interview in November 2022 for the Czech Radio, Vice President Ramany ruled out the involvement of the Chinese CGN with whom they had worked on the Hinkley Point C NPP, insisting that EDF will rely on the European supply chain. He added that projects of such scope and importance cannot succeed without cooperation with local partners and industry. As an example,  British firms are involved in 64 % of the construction work in the UK nuclear project.

Also, EDF’s subsidiary Framatome is, as part of the consortium Framatome-Siemens, involved in the Russian-built units 5 and 6 at NPP Paks responsible for the manufacture, delivery and commission of automated process control systems.

The Korean bidder: KHNP

The coverage of PR activities of the Korean bidder KHNP who, unlike its competitors, has no previous European projects behind, demonstrates a range of events and a concentrated campaign on the national and local levels. The Koreans have organized a series of high-level bilateral meetings, for instance, a meeting between Prime Ministers Fiala and Han Duk-so this September in Prague, the Korean president’s meeting with Fiala at the NATO summit in June in Madrid, and South Korea’s Industry Minister Lee Chang-yang visit to Prague in June. 

As part of the concentrated PR effort, the delegation of the Czech government visited the KHNP project Barakah NPP (UAE) in November last year and the Czech energy security ambassador Bartuska visited Shin Kori NPP (Korea) in March 2023. KHNP President Chung Jae-hoon has repeatedly visited Prague, and in March 2023 held a symposium where KHNP and its consortium partners presented their nuclear power plant technology and localization strategy. Chung also met with Industry and Trade Minister Jozef Sikela after the symposium.

KHNP activities in the Czech Republic

On September 1, 2022, KEPCO E&C (KEPCO Engineering and Construction) held a seminar in Prague to support cooperation with ÚJV Řež (Nuclear Research Institute). KEPCO E&C, a part of a group led by the South Korean company KHNP, signed a memorandum of understanding with ÚJV Řež. 

KHNP plans to organize a technical seminar and other related events in Korea next year with the aim of supporting exports to the Czech Republic as part of efforts to enact cooperation with related entities.

On the local level, the Korean bidder also actively engages in socially responsible activities in the region. Volunteering in local communities, sponsoring the local hockey club, and supplying medical supplies to local municipalities, including schools and social care institutions.

KHNP has recently completed a project in the UAE on time and with no cost overruns and is in negotiation on building a NPP in Patnow, Poland, planning to start the test operation in 2035. 

Rosatom

Interestingly, but not surprisingly, Rosatom still appears in our media monitoring, resulting in a high number of 780 articles, 202 of them are in Russian. The topics revolve around the nuclear fuel supplies to Czech NPPs, originally contracted from the Russian company TVER, discontinued as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Russian media also cover current global Rosatom projects in China, Turkey, Egypt, India and Bangladesh. Noteworthy is the Russian involvement in building two units at the NPP Paks, Hungary, where the Russians provide €10 billion funding too. This dependence on Rosatom’s technology and Russian fuel causes a rift in the EU, with Hungary opposing the inclusion of the nuclear power sector in the EU sanctions. The Foreign minister Szijjártó in September 2022 made an assertion that “Rosatom was not a security threat, but a proven and reliable partner”. A completely contrasting position was taken by Finland which decided to terminate the Hanhikivi NPP contract with Rosatom.

Other articles are hailing the exit from the Western markets that enables Rosatom to redirect its business to the Chinese market instead, seeking to push out the Western competition. The closure of operations of the Rosatom office in the Czech Republic is covered by several articles.

CGN

Media monitoring in simplified Chinese produced 15 articles, three coming from Sputniknews (Russia Today), and two coming from the KBS (Korean Radio International) Most reported the exclusion of the Chinese state energy company CGN from the UK nuclear energy market and also its disqualification from the participation in the Dukovany tender (2021) and a revocation of a nuclear power agreement with Romania (2020), in the context of deteriorating China-EU relations. Two Korean articles reported on Korean diplomatic activities in support of the KHNP Dukovany bid. And besides the announcement of the bid for Dukovany NPP expansion, mentioned are Czech plans for small nuclear reactors and the contracts with Westinghouse and Framatome for nuclear fuel closed  in June 2022.  

Conclusion

The starting positions of Westinghouse and EDF, both having a history of cooperation in the Czech nuclear sector, guaranteed a larger media presence of the two bidders, whilst KEPCO with no previous history in the Czech (or European) nuclear sector, has had to be on the offensive, showing a steady and all-round performance in their effort to win the tender. 

Westinghouse and its contractor Bechtel have focused on creating a solid base for cooperation with local suppliers by organizing conferences and workshops/ fairs and banking on the broader economic and military commitment between the two countries. The monitoring shows a concentrated PR and diplomatic effort to secure the nuclear bid. 43 articles report on the lawsuit filed by Westinghouse against KHNP. 

The French EDF has relied mainly on the traditional forms of outreach, focusing on academic and expert ties, initiating several professional projects (most recently a Czech-French Nuclear Academy), and accentuating its European solution and its past and present operations in the nuclear sector.

KHNP media coverage revealed a global presence, unveiling their track record, concentrated high-level diplomatic activity and local involvement. 

Two other companies in media monitoring

Semantic Vision’s media monitoring also identified the presence of the two companies eliminated from the present bid in 2021. The articles of Russian provenience cover the nuclear fuel supplies by TVEL, Russian sanctions and a political decision and its consequences not to include the companies on political grounds in the aftermath of the Russian invasion in Ukraine. The press coverage in Chinese, partly by way of Russian sources, brings up the demise of CNG from nuclear projects in the EU and reports on the activities of the Korean bidder in the Czech Republic.  


Meta description:

Learn about the latest developments in the nuclear power industry in the Czech Republic, including plans for the expansion of the Dukovany Nuclear Power Plant. Three large international companies are bidding for the project: Westinghouse, EDF and KHNP. Semantic Visions analysed their PR and media activities and their strategies for winning the tender.

Czech Republic nuclear capacity expansion, NPP Dukovany expansion, Westinghouse,
EDF, KHNP, Nuclear energy in Czech Republic, Nuclear power plant development, International nuclear industry bids, Czech-French Nuclear Academy, Rosatom, CGN

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