The Czech Republic has officially barred Russian energy group Rosatom from tendering for the multi-billion-dollar contract to build a new reactor at the Dukovany nuclear power plant, claiming to have seen evidence that Russian secret agents were involved in explosions at an ammunition depot in the country in 2014 that killed two people.
Rosatom decried the decision, saying it would hurt Czech companies who were to be involved in the work if it had won the tender.
"The Russian supplier Rosatom will not be addressed to submit documents for security assessment," Czech Industry and Trade Minister Karel Havlicek told reporters on Monday, reports AFP.Â
His statement came as the Czech Republic’s expulsion of 18 employees of the Russian Embassy in Prague came into force.
"On Friday, we received clear information that Russian secret service operations were taking place on our territory," Czech Foreign Minister Jan HamáÄek said in announcing the expulsion.
Havlicek first raised the possibility of the ban on Saturday, saying: "It is very serious news, any such act, should it be confirmed, must clearly have consequences."Â
The cost of the project is expected to be around €6bn.
The decision leaves just France’s EDF, South Korea’s Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, and US-based Westinghouse in the race to build the new reactor by 2036.
Czech political parties agreed to exclude Chinese contractors in January this year.
Reacting to the exclusion, Rosatom called it "an anti-market, politically motivated decision that does not encourage the development of mutually beneficial cooperation between our countries".Â
"The Russian offer envisioned the involvement of hundreds of Czech and European companies in the project of the Dukovany nuclear power plant expansion project, which could have included contracts worth billions of euros," Rosatom said.
"Thus, by excluding Roastom from the tender, the Czech authorities are pushing aside their own national industry."
An official tender is expected to be launched toward the end of 2021, after a new government takes office following a general election in October.
Image: The Dukovany nuclear power plant is located near Brno in the south of the Czech Republic (Public Domain)