US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday backed a bid by US energy giant Westinghouse to build two new units at the Czech Temelin nuclear plant worth at least $10 billion (7.67 billion euros).
"We are not shy about pressing the case for Westinghouse to expand the Temelin nuclear power plant because we believe that company offers the best option for the project in terms of technology and safety," Clinton said.
The US giant faces stiff competition from Russia's Atomstroiexport bidding together with a Russian-owned Czech company.
France's Areva, a third bidder, was ruled out of the tender but has filed an appeal against the decision with the Czech UOHS anti-competition watchdog.
The new units due to come online in 2025 aim to raise the share of nuclear power in the Czech energy mix to 50 percent from the current 30 percent produced by Temelin and by another plant in the southern village of Dukovany.
Prague is looking to nuclear power as its communist-era coal plants face likely closure owing to tighter EU regulations on greenhouse gas emissions.
"We are encouraging the Czech Republic to diversify its energy sources and suppliers in ways that are economically sustainable and environmentally sound," the top US diplomat added.
An ex-Soviet bloc country of 10.5 million which joined NATO in 1999 and the European Union in 2004, the Czech Republic now depends on Russia for 60 percent of oil supplies, 70 percent of gas supplies and 100 percent of nuclear fuel supplies, according to US sources.
Westinghouse's victory "would clearly enhance Czech energy security and further the nuclear collaboration between our two countries," Clinton said following talks with Czech counterpart Karel Schwarzenberg.