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West goes East: part II

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#352
12/05/1991
Article

(May 12, 1991) In our Chernobyl Special Edition we ran two articles on attempts by western nuclear corporations to gain a foothold in Eastern Europe (WISE News Communique Vol.349/350, Eastern Europe: A revival of nuclear energy? - The nuclear industry faces problems in Eastern Europe). Those articles focused on the activities of Electricité de France (EdF) and French suppliers, as well as the giant German firm of Siemens.

(352.3501) WISE Amsterdam - But these aren't the only nuclear companies fighting over what western companies see as "a great new marketing opportunity". This is no surprise. As the folks from SCRAM in Scotland put it, "When government legislation and environmental Opposition groups make it both difficult and expensive to find new sites for power stations, generating companies are drawn to areas of the least resistance and the lowest standards - like Eastern Europe.

USSR

For example, when - at the 12-14 April Chernobyl conference in Berlin - a Soviet Communist Party official reported that his country would not after all be building any of the approximately 58 nuclear reactors of the Chernobyl type originally planned for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, this was no victory, because Siemens and other western companies were already actively lobbying to build "safe western reactors" in their place. In the USSR itself, ENEL (Italy's state-owned power company) was beginning discussions with Soviet officials on a plan to install 13,000 MW of new capacity there. One quarter of this energy would be exported under long-term con-tracts back to Italy.

Asea Brown Boveri AG (ABB - a joint Swiss-Swedish concern) has also been scrambling to get itself installed in the Soviet Union. In partnership with Siemens, ABB signed cooperation agreements with the Soviet State Committee for the Utilization of Atomic Energy (GKAE) to build high-temperature gas-cooled reactors (HTR5) back in 1988. However, as of February of this year, both companies have agreed to halt marketing of HTRs for an indefinite period - not just in the USSR, bet worldwide. According to one vendor official, there just aren't any "realistic prospects" for the HTR, at least for the pre-sent. The decision to stop the marketing efforts resulted from internal studies showing that process heat produced in small HTRs could not compete economically with that from fossil-fueled plants unless the world price of bituminous coal doubled. With specific regard to the Soviet agreement, Siemens had earlier concluded in January that there was no chance the troubled Soviet Union would carry through with plans to build even one HTR. "The Soviet Union simply has other priorities," said an official from Siemens' KWU division.

RUMANIA

In Rumania, Ontario Hydro of Canada has been extremely active in trying to market its CANDU reactor. In addition to completing construction on the five CANDU reactors at Cernavoda, the company hopes to build two or three more at another site. Canadian environmentalists are busy trying to prevent the Canadian government from making a CDN $250 million dollar loan to the Rumanian government for the completion of the original five reactors. (For more on this, see the "Letters" section, this issue, and WISE News Communique 346.3457.) According to an article published in the Spanish newspaper "Diario El Sol" (29 June 1990), even Spanish companies are trying to move in. In 1990, a consortium of seven Spanish companies called Energrup was set up to coordinate negotiations with Rumania for the sale of parts of the Lemoniz nuclear power station. The parts, intact but not currently in use, were offered for use at Cernavoda. However, official spokes-people for Iberduero, Lemoniz' owner, claimed at the time of the article's publication that no one had contacted them about such a deal. They acted surprised and pointed out that the technology used in the Rumanian reactors was different from Lemoniz, a system built by the US corporation Westinghouse, and that the parts were "not at all compatible". In any case, concluded an article in another Spanish newspaper ("Egin", 30 June 1990), Lemoniz is affected by a nuclear moratorium, and any transaction with any of its parts must be properly authorized by Spanish authorities.

HUNGARY

In Hungary, although EdF and Framatome got their feet in the door early (they propose to build two nuclear stations there), business with other western corporations is still being "vigorously" pursued by the Central Research Institute for Physics (KFKI). KFKI is Hungary's foremost nuclear research and development organization. At the same time, the institute continues to collaborate with its Soviet counterparts.

KFKI, which belongs to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and employs 2,000 people, has its own research reactor and operator training facilities. Its director general, Zoltan Szatmary, is also president of the Hungarian Nuclear Society (HuNS), which was set up late last year to provide a forum through which Hungary can participate in worldwide nuclear society activities. The society, says Szatmary, also intends to develop a "partnership" relationship with Hungarian Green and environmental groups and provide them with "expert" advice on nuclear issues. The society, many of whose members are professors, lecturers or physics teachers, also wants to help educate and inform young people about nuclear issues...

The whole of the Hungarian nuclear industry is throwing itself into the business of selling nuclear to the masses. In 1990, the Paks Nuclear Power Plant Company (PAy) contracted with MTV Hungarian television for free broadcasting of a series of 10- to 15-minute films PAV has made on nuclear energy. They are expected to be aired on the station's educational program beginning sometime this year. PAV has also made seven one-minute commercials promoting nuclear power, some of which were broadcast beginning in 1990 in a campaign which is to continue through this year. The commercials' message is built around the word "biztos", which means "sure" or "safe", with all the ads ending with "ez biztos", meaning "that's for sure" or "it is safe". And it's for sure that the aim of the advertising, designed for PAV by Interpress, a partner in the McCann-Erickson publicity group, is to reverse anti-nuclear sentiments by removing fear. Further, the ads emphasize industry claims of environmental and economic advantages as well as what Nucleonics Week describes as "its relative protection from supply interruption." PAV decided to concentrate on TV advertising not only to influence the government's upcoming decision about two new units proposed for the Paks nuclear power station, but also to create an atmosphere in which it can get public acceptance for its planned low- and medium-level waste site (a project that was stopped in 1989 in face of public and political protests).

For construction of the two proposed units, Paks 5 and 6, PAV is considering firms from Canada (Ontario Hydro already has an office in Budapest) as well as from France and Germany. As the units are mainly to be paid for by the supply of electric power, much depends on the forecast of the demand for power in western Europe, especially in Italy. Italy's ENEL participated with Ontario Hydro and Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. Candu Ops in conducting a market analysis, which examined the potential for CANDU plants to be built on a HOT (build, operate and transfer) basis.

CZECHO-SLOVAKIA

Meanwhile, Czecho-Slovakia, too, is keeping the door open to other western corporations. In February, the Slovakian utility Slovenske Energeticke Podniky (SEP) made an arrangement that it will pay for backfits to the instrumentation and control systems at its four Mochovce PWRs using hard currency proceeds from power sales to Ger-many's Bayernwerk AG. SEP will supply Bayernwerk with a total of 1.4 billion kilowatt-hours from the reactors during the winter months of 1995-97. The first two of the four Soviet-design VVER-440 PWRs will be back fit over the next two years by KWU, a Siemens subsidiary. According to a Bayernwerk spokes-person, "The power deliveries will give SEP foreign exchange to carry out power plant-related projects." (According to German industry officials, however, the power deal was in part arranged between Siemens, SEP and Bayernwerk to finance the backfits Siemens will do at Mochovce.) Bayernwerk is interested in further nuclear cooperation in Czecho-Slovakia and, according to "Nucleonics Week" sources, has discussed financing of nuclear projects in return for supply of baseload power to Germany in the late 1990s. In addition to the agreement over power supply from Mochovce, Bayernwerk and SEP are cooperating to improve the efficiency of the Slovakian grid and will jointly build a 100 MW peakload hydro station at Zilina, in eastern Slovakia. Direct two-way power transfers between Czecho-Slovakia and Germany will become possible in 1992. That project is a joint venture of Bayernwerk and Ceske Energeticke Zavody (CEZ), the Czech utility which owns and operates four PWBs at Dukovany and is building two more at Temelin.

Also in February, a consortium of Czecho-Slovakian companies sent invitations to bid on supply of two new light water reactors (LWRs) to six major vendors. They expect to receive preliminary bids on reactor supply and related fuel cycle activities by 31 May, and will invite a limited number of vendors to bid on a plant later in the year. The consortium includes utilities CEZ and SEP, architect/-engineering firm Energoprojekt, national uranium/fuel cycle company CSUP, and Jiri Beranek, an indepen-dent consultant representing the Czecho-Slovak Atomic Energy Com-mission (CzAEC). (He had previously been Chief Inspector there.) Bids have been sought for supply of what the consortium calls "the next dual-unit nuclear plant to be built in Czechoslovakia". The vendors that have been approached are Westinghouse, Nuclear Power International (NPI), ABB, Mitsubishi, General Electric, and Czecho-Slovakia's own heavy engineering firm Skoda. But according to Beranek, other potential suppliers also will be invited to bid, including the US architect/engineering firm Bechtel, which has already expressed interest.

The Prague government has not yet decided where it wants to build the country's first western-design reactors: at Temelin, where two Soviet design VVER-1000 units are still to be completed; at Tetov in eastern Bohemia; at Kecerovce in southern Slovakia; or perhaps at Blahutovice in Moravia. The decision is expected sometime this year, but making it poses a bit of a problem. The licensing authority lies in the Environment Ministries of the separate Czech and Slovak Republics. Up to now, the Czech ministry has opposed construction of further nuclear plants, but according to Nucleonics Week, a change of minister could possibly change that situation. But even so, the weekly says, it might remain easier to get a nuclear plant licensed in Slovakia. Meanwhile, western vendors seem to assume that whoever is able to work up some sort of collaboration with Skoda will have an advantage in the bidding process. The preliminary bid is open to both PWR and BWR designs.

A speech made by Deputy Minister of Economy Jan Jicha at the 24th annual conference of the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF) in Tokyo in early April made it clear that Czecho-Slovakia is looking for cooperation from western industrialized countries in virtually every part of its nuclear power development policies. Jicha, the only East European representative to address the conference, said this as he explained his country's new energy policy, formulated at the end of last year. The policy stresses reduction of energy demand and utilization of "all types" of energy sources. Jicha listed the following as the fields in which Czecho-Slovakia seeks western cooperation:

  • upgrading of its Soviet-design reactors;
  • establishment of a joint venture or consortium to provide for nuclear fuel, giving Czecho-Slovakia a better deal than it has had with fuel imported from the Soviet Union;
  • establishment of intermediate- and long-term spent nuclear fuel storage facilities;
  • engineering and building of radioactive waste storage and disposal sites, two of which - bath surface-pool type - the country is now constructing; and
  • promotion of public acceptance.

"The sphere of public relations has been completely neglected," he said, "and we are paying for our negligence dearly. We would like to seek advice in countries such as France and Japan, which we know are very experienced in public relations with respect to nuclear energy.

Sources:

  • SCRAM Safe Energy Journal (Scotland), Feb/Mar 1991, p.6
  • Miles Goldstick (Sweden)
  • Nucleonics Week (US), 17 May 1990, p.15, 18 Oct. 1990, p.6, 1 Nov. 1990, p.16, 7 Feb. 1991, p.1, 21 Feb. 1991, pp.l and 4, and 11 Apr. 1991, p.7
  • WISE-Tarragona.

Contacts: For more on Ontario Hydra, write to: Nuclear Awareness Project, Box 2331, Oshawa, Ontario, LAH 7V4 Canada.
On Hungary: Martin Abma, Milieu Kontakt Oost Europa, P0 Box 18185, 1001 ZB Amsterdam, The Netherlands, tel: +31-20-6391379 or Pal Farkas, tel: +36-1-142 32 32.
On Czecho-Slovakia: Rainbow Movement, c/a Jan V. Beranek, Vymazalova 19, 615 00 Brno, Czecho-Slovakia or Children of the Earth, P.O. Box 70, 161 00 Prague 6, Czecho-Slovakia.