UPDATE 1-CEZ wants broad nuclear power plant deal as Russia disputes delay tender

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PRAGUE, March 16 (Reuters) – The CEZ would prefer to have a political agreement on launching a tender for the construction of a new unit at the Dukovany nuclear power plant, CEO Daniel Benes said on Tuesday as tensions were mounting over whether to invite Russia into the process.

The 70% state-owned power producer aims to launch the tender, estimated at at least 6 billion euros ($ 7.17 billion) at current prices, as soon as possible.

EU and NATO security services have advised against inviting China and Russia to participate in the tender, going against pro-Russian President Milos Zeman as well as de Benes who spoke in favor of keeping Russia, considered a serious competitor.

Most of the opposition parties, which stand a chance of seizing power in elections slated for October, have insisted not to invite the two countries into the process.

“We would prefer there to be a broader consensus,” Benes said at a press conference on CEZ’s 2020 results.

“It would provide more stability for an election every four years, when political representation changes, but it’s not a necessary condition,” Benes said.

In January, political parties agreed that Chinese companies should not participate, but disagreed on Russia.

Besides the Chinese CGNP and the Russian Rosatom, the French EdF, the Korean KHNP and the American Westinghouse have expressed their interest in the construction of the power station of approximately 1,200 megawatts.

Benes said consensus was not contractually necessary and stopped before saying whether the tender – which would take around 18 months, in the next election period – would be launched amid political wrangling.

CEZ needs official instruction from the Ministry of Industry before it can proceed. The ministry is in favor of keeping the tender open to Russia, but the cabinet has not taken a final position.

Government nuclear envoy Jaroslav Mil told the Hospodarske Noviny newspaper on Tuesday that the tender should not be launched without consensus.

A meeting of a nuclear energy committee made up of government and opposition representatives was scheduled for late March or early April.

CEZ has already canceled once a call for tenders for the construction of a new nuclear power plant, in 2014, for lack of government aid, and was keen to avoid a second failure.

The opposition also obstructed a bill in parliament authorizing state loans and state purchases of power from the plant on terms favorable to CEZ. ($ 1 = 0.8374 euros) (Report by Jason Hovet and Robert Muller Editing by Jan Lopatka and David Evans)

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