Czech plan to build new nuclear units could boost Russian leverage

EPA/ARMIN WEIGEL/FILE PICTURE

A car drives pass in front of the cooling towers of the nuclear power plant in Temelin, Czech Republic.

The Czech Republic should think twice before considering a similar agreement like Hungary agreed with Russia in 2014 for building new reactors, a UK expert tells NE.


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Russia is reportedly hoping to construct new nuclear power plant units in the Czech Republic, but the possibility of a no-bid intergovernmental deal to help build the units in the country could increase the Kremlin’s political influence in the heart of the EU, which would raise serious security concerns, a London-based expert told New Europe.

Czech state-controlled utility CEZ, which operates two plants at Dukovany and Temelin, plans to build new reactors at its two nuclear power plants. The Czech government is reportedly mulling how to finance the construction of the new units.

Russian state corporation Rosatom was among the foreign majors who previously expressed readiness to take part in a tender for the construction of a new power unit in the Czech Republic, which is purchasing fuel from Rosatom for their nuclear power plants in the country.

However, Justin Urquhart Stewart, director at Seven Investment Management in London, told New Europe in a phone interview that the Czech Republic should think twice before considering a similar intergovernmental agreement like Hungary signed with Russia in 2014 for the construction of new reactors as it would allow for a significant amount of Russian leverage over the Czech government.

“It’s very tempting for someone like the Czech Republic to have something built for them like that and funded in a quite a generous manner. But I think increasingly there’s going to be … increasing concern over security and personal data and information and the ability of foreign powers to control your infrastructure,” Urquhart Stewart said. “If you have Russia building, if not necessarily running, but actually having no doubt control over a nuclear power station in the Czech Republic is not a good political position to be in.”

“I think it will be interesting to see how the rest of the EU wakes up to this and realises that the Russians have actually been up to no good for many years and that they also lied so be wary of that investment coming through, but again I don’t think the Brussels politicians slightly realise that,” Urquhart Stewart argued.

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, whose country is heavily dependent on Russian oil, gas, and nuclear expertise, has criticised Western sanctions against Moscow over its annexation of the Crimea Peninsula and the Kremlin’s military actions and backing for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Urquhart Stewart claimed that Hungary is now biting for Russia’s foreign policy interests. “That’s a very good way of going around it. Because they can simply say, ‘Oh, it’s not Russia, this is… You must follow the money all the way through as we can see in London with the money laundering coming through from Russia and Ukraine, this is a similar issue but for countries like this who are – forgive me – probably less sophisticated and probably do not appreciate the potential risks that they are running,” he argued.

“Now, whether the European Commission would have anything to say on that to try and stop it or not. But remember the Czech Republic along with Slovakia, Hungary and Poland, is part of the Visegrad group – who are extremely anti-Brussels anyway so that’s going to create further tensions in the EU this year,” Urquhart Stewart said.

 

 

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