Friday, October 23, 2009

A Party in the Spider’s Web

temelin-nuclear-power-plant-czech-bg If this article about the Czech Republic’s energy profile is correct, the number one goal of the country is to disentangle itself from Russia, with which it was of course deeply entangled for some fifty years.

The number two goal, though, is to keep a fishy eye on President Vaclav Klaus, who appears to be quite friendly with the Russians (we can’t pretend to understand the ideological warp that exists in Eastern Europe, but Klaus is described as very conservative – to us, that ought to mean nationalist – but in the Czech Republic, apparently not, as Klaus won the Presidency with the help of the Communists, who we guess would be considered rear-guard.)

Consider that Martin Laryš’ article in the Prague Post is about energy, yet comes to this point:

While energy remains a concern, the bigger threat for the Czech Republic remains less direct Russian takeovers of strategic companies. The close and often personal ties between large Russian state companies and intelligence services would lead to a likely increase in influence for Russian intelligence in the Czech Republic.

Would it? That’s a really big conceptual leap – but we can’t really blame Laryš for making it.

Anyway, here’s the nuclear energy angle:

Fear of Russian dominance in oil and gas was a major argument for further developing Czech nuclear energy, to create an alternative energy source and further decrease dependence on Russia. However, the Russians are trying to find their way into this strategic sector, as well. Like most things, it mostly comes down to money, which Russian energy companies are not lacking.

Neither is French or American money – one wonders if the Czechs want to detach from the Russians as much as this article suggests. Oh, wait, here come the Americans:

Another hopeful candidate [to build two new units in an existing Czech plant] is U.S. company Westinghouse, but, according to the Czech weekly Respekt, the Russians remain the frontrunner.

Oops, there go the Americans (though the deal isn’t set yet – there may be a pleasant surprise.) Here’s some more:

Recently, ČEZ [Czech Power Company] signed a contract with Rosatom subsidiary Tvel for fuel supplies to the Temelín [nuclear] plant, choosing them over Westinghouse. The contract runs through 2010.

This story imagines Russia as the spider with the Czech Republic as the fly – and given history, who can say it’s wrong – but at least on the face of it, the fly seems to be having a pretty good time in the web – or is making the best of being entangled.

See here for more on Czech usage of nuclear energy – it generates about a third of its electricity via the atom, so its an essential part of the country’s energy mix.

The Temelin nuclear plant.

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