U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was expected to push Monday for the Czech Republic to pick Pennsylvania-based Westinghouse Electric Co. over a Russian-led group for a $10 billion nuclear power plant expansion.
Mrs. Clinton would urge the Czechs to reduce their dependence on Russian energy, highlight Westinghouse's nuclear safety record and emphasize that using an American company would open doors for technology cooperation with the U.S., creating jobs on both sides, according to a State Department official who spoke with reporters accompanying Clinton.
The secretary is in Europe for a trip that will include two days of consultations with NATO partners on funding commitments for Afghanistan, the threat to Turkey from Syria's civil war and instability across the Middle East and North Africa. She starts her 38th visit to Europe as the top U.S. diplomat with a stop in Prague, where she will meet leaders of the Czech government and the opposition Social Democrats.
Mrs. Clinton, who has made promoting U.S. exports and business abroad a signature issue, will urge the Czechs to embrace a bid by Westinghouse, based in Cranberry and owned by Toshiba Corp., that the State Department says would create 9,000 jobs in the U.S. competing with a Russian-Czech group led by Atomstroyexport, a unit of Russia's state-run Rosatom Corp.
The Czechs currently buy 60 percent of their oil, 70 percent of their natural gas and all of their nuclear reactor fuel from Russia. Mrs. Clinton also will make the case that overreliance on Russian energy creates economic and political vulnerabilities for buyer nations. A final contract for the Temelin expansion must be signed before the end of 2013, according to the Czech utility CEZ AS. Paris-based Areva SA, the world's largest supplier of nuclear fuel, was disqualified from bidding in October and has appealed to the Czech anti-monopoly office.
Mrs. Clinton's visit is also intended to recognize the Czechs as an ally in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that has contributed troops to U.S.-led missions in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Balkans. The Czechs are sharing expertise on mitigating threats from chemical weapons amid concerns that any such an arsenal may exist in Syria.