* Contract would bring thousands of jobs to U.S.
* US officials stress reduction of reliance on Russia
* Clinton to emphasize safety after Fukushima disaster
By David Brunnstrom
PRAGUE, Dec 3 U.S. Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton will seek to convince Czech leaders of the advantages of
picking U.S. firm Westinghouse over a Russian rival as the
contractor for a $10 billion nuclear reactor project in meetings
in Prague on Monday.
U.S. officials traveling with Clinton to Prague said the
Temelin nuclear power project could bring as many as 9,000 jobs
to the United States and would help diversify the Czech
Republic's energy supply away from Russia.
Majority state-owned Czech firm CEZ applied on Friday to
build two new blocks at its 2,000 megawatt Temelin nuclear power
plant, in what would be the European country's biggest energy
Westinghouse, a unit of Japanese firm Toshiba Corp,
is competing with Russia's Atomstroyexport, which is bidding in
a consortium with a Russian-owned Czech group.
U.S. officials said formal negotiations between the two
bidders and the Czech government are expected to start in
December, with a decision on the contractor expected in the
Clinton is due to meet Prime Minister Petr Necas and Foreign
Minister Karel Schwarzenberg on Monday morning.
"There will be the opportunity for the Secretary to support
... Westinghouse," a senior State Department official told
"It could be great in lots of ways - for American jobs,
American companies, for energy security and diversity in the
Czech Republic, for jobs in the Czech Republic and for a
scientific and innovation partnership with the United States."
Clinton would stress Westinghouse's safety record given
concerns about nuclear reactors after the Fukushima disaster in
Japan last year, he said.
The U.S. side will also stress the advantage of reducing the
Czech Republic's reliance on Russia for energy. According to
U.S. officials, the country currently gets 60 percent of its
oil, 70 percent of its gas, and 100 percent of its nuclear
reactor fuel from Russia.
"We think there's an awful lot to be said for this (choosing
Westinghouse) in terms of energy security and diversifying
Clinton will also discuss energy security with EU officials
in Brussels on Wednesday.
CEZ, central Europe's biggest energy group, with a market
capitalization of $18.2 billion, threw out a bid from French
firm Areva in October, because it failed to meet "crucial
Clinton's visit to Prague follows one by U.S. Assistant
Secretary of Commerce Nicole Lamb-Hale last week. Lamb-Hale said
the U.S. Export-Import Bank was interested in financing the deal
if Westinghouse were picked.
The Czech Republic's bid to expand its nuclear capacity has
run into opposition from neighbours Austria and Germany. Clinton
will share a conference table with the foreign ministers of
these countries, as well as with Russia, when she attends a
meeting of the NATO military alliance in Brussels on Tuesday and
Many Czech officials fear an over reliance on Russian energy
will put their country under too much influence from its former
communist master. After the end of the Cold War and the collapse
of the former Soviet Union, Prague became a close ally of the
The Russian bidders have sought to allay Czech fears about
Moscow and stressed that there would be a high participation
rate by domestic firms if they won the tender.