U.S. backs Westinghouse's work on Czech reactors

May 22, 1994|By New York Times News Service

In a plan that is drawing diplomatic protests from abroad and political objections at home, the Westinghouse Electric Corp. intends to use its own technology to complete two Soviet-designed nuclear reactors in the Czech Republic with the backing of the Clinton administration.

In support of the first attempt to graft American technology onto a Soviet reactor, the administration rebuffed congressional and environmental opponents to approve $317 million in loan guarantees to finance the work.

Administration officials said that the Westinghouse technology was a step toward the broader goal of improving safety at Soviet-designed reactors. There are 16 uncompleted reactors in Eastern Europe, as well as more than 50 operating or under construction in Russia, Ukraine, and Bulgaria.

"Nobody is saying we love the project," said Kathleen McGinty, director of environmental policy at the White House. "We like a project that has a chance of being safe rather than a ticking time bomb. We are not going to be a party to looking the other way while another Chernobyl occurs."

The Temelin reactors, called the VVER-1000, are the most advanced Soviet design. They are not the type that exploded at the Chernobyl plant near Kiev in 1986.

"These are excellent machines, and, with the investments, they should have a very long and productive life," said Nathaniel D. Woodson, president of the Westinghouse energy systems business unit in Pittsburgh.

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