A Columbia-based company has been awarded a $10 million contract to build a training system for the Temelin Nuclear Power Plant in Czechoslovakia.
General Physics International Engineering and Simulation Inc., which specializes in nuclear training and simulation, is working on the project with ORGREZ, the leading simulator manufacturer in Czechoslovakia.
GP International, a 2-year-old firm with 61 employees, will provide Czechoslovakia with computer software and training. The equipment will simulate problems that operators of power plants might confront.
The company also is a contender to provide simulator equipment for another nuclear power plant in the country. This week, a delegation from the Slovakian republic visited GP International to assess the company's capabilities.
Czechoslovakia has two existing nuclear power plants and two under construction.
"This is the first simulator agreement Czechoslovakia has awarded to a U.S. corporation," said Thomas Jenkins, president of GP International. "By training power-plant operators on computer-driven simulators, personnel learn to handle a wide range of emergency situations, as well as routine maintenance. This increased operator preparedness can prevent potential accidents due to operator error."
The existing nuclear power plants in Czechoslovakia were built using Soviet technology, and concerns have been raised about the safety of nuclear power in light of the Chernobyl accident. But Jiri Panek, a representative of ORGREZ, said Czechoslovakia has limited options for power. Coal fired plants would not be able to rely on a domestic supply because the country produces a poor-quality, highly polluting coal. Solar and hydroelectric power generation are not viable.
GP International has provided simulator equipment to China, Taiwan and the Soviet Union and to a number of power companies in the United States.
Because U.S. nuclear power plants already have training simulators and the industry is not growing, GP International is looking overseas for growth. Czechoslovakia provides an important link to other markets because until recently that country trained nuclear power plant operators in other Eastern European countries.
Jenkins said his company is in the process of forming a joint venture with ORGREZ to do more work in Eastern Europe.
GP International is a 93 percent owned subsidiary of National Patent Development Corp. and a division of General Physics Services Corp.