Hillary Clinton is visiting Prague today – and even the official Iranian newspapers took notice. Her visit has one goal: she will try to convince Karel Schwarzenberg, her Czech counterpart, that Westinghouse, Toshiba's U.S. branch, is the better candidate to complete the Temelín nuclear power plant.
Both Clinton and Schwarzenberg are ministers of foreign affairs; both of them are potential future presidents, too. However, Hillary's candidacy isn't yet official while Schwarzenberg whose candidacy already is official doesn't have too high chances to win the office in the January 2013 direct elections.
Temelín in South Bohemia (Google Maps) has been running two 1,000 MW reactors for a decade; two more 1,000 MW are likely to be built. There were three candidates – French, American, Russian. France's Areva was said by our semi-state-owned electric utility company ČEZ not to obey the conditions of the tender. It was eliminated but appealed so its case is being studied by the anti-monopoly office now.
The remaining two contestants are Westinghouse (U.S.) and Atomstroyexport (Russia). The existing Temelín reactors are based on a combined Russian-American technology and, despite this explosive mixture of Russian mechanics and American control equipment, it is free of safety shortcomings according to the IAEA's report published a week ago or so.
Czechia has one more nuclear power plant in Moravia, Dukovany. In total, nuclei contribute 1/3 to our production and the percentage would increase to 1/2 if Temelín is expanded as planned. Of course, various factors, especially possibly dropping electricity prices, may still doom the project.
It's understandable that the whole governments are trying to intervene: the Temelín expansion contract is worth $10-$15 billion. On the other hand, I don't quite understand whether such visits of politicians may influence the process – and if they may influence it, whether it's legal and whether it's ethical.
The American company has a political advantage – Czechia has surely considered itself to be closer to the U.S. than Russia for 23 years; America is viewed as a more credible partner. On the other hand, the Russian company has an industrial advantage because various Czech companies would be likely to participate in the construction if the Russian side wins. Dr Ms Dana Drábová, our nuclear watchdog in chief, says that the Russian project has the usual flaws of likely problems in enforcing construction quality and supervision; the problem of the U.S. project is that it hasn't been tested – two blocks in China and two blocks in the U.S. are under construction now.
Schlafenberg and Hillary
Aside from the nuclear power plant, they may talk about three more topics: collaboration in Syria where the Czech embassy represents the American diplomatic interests (Hillary recommended Assad a great idea to use chemical weapons by telling him not to do so); issues of the Czech-American treaty on investments; possibility of exploiting U.S. supersonic fighters in the Czech Air Forces.
Military aircraft are a controversial topic here – some previously popular politicians are facing investigation because the purchase of Spanish CASA aicraft for $200 million a few years ago has been claimed to be a very bad deal by some people. There is some kind of a hysteria about this deal – it's being used to strengthen the widespread meme and myth that all politicians are criminals – even though the best thing that someone presented was an evaluation indicating that the price should have been $40 million lower.
I am utterly unimpressed by this sort of criticism. You may always find a posteriori audits claiming that the price should have been lower or higher; you obviously can't treat officials like criminals whenever you can achieve such a thing (which is really almost always). One may only convict people if they break the law – and the laws must always balance the efficiency of catching the misbehaving people and the ability of the business to creatively operate despite these laws. And even if the money could have been easily saved, $40 million isn't a big deal as a fraction of the money that the government wastes every year. In my opinion, the officials such as Ms Vlasta Parkanová (a former defense minister and pro-missile-defense singer) are almost certainly innocent (even if they didn't prove to be the most competent ones in similar issues) unless millions are found under their floor or boxes with wine. It's bad that they're being harassed and it's bad that so many people got brainwashed by this anti-democratic demagogy.
By a complete coincidence (or not?), today the Swedes lowered the price of their gripens that the Czech army may offer to replace Russian MIGs by 10 percent. It was announced by defense minister and ex-dissident Vondra who announced his political retirements just a few days ago.
Adrenaline in Tel Aviv
Look at this November 17th, 2012 video from Tel Aviv.
The Iron Dome – the top part of the Israeli missile defense system – seems to be so efficient (85% interception rate in the recent conflict with Hamas, counted from the 400 missiles fired to populated places; 1100 other missiles were correctly identified as fired to harmless locations) that even Hillary Clinton and the far-left wing U.K. daily The Independent admitted it deserves to be called a breakthrough. On that day, two Fajr-5 rockets were refused entry into Tel Aviv.
More sensible, listen to engineer "Ari" at Fox News. One Iron Dome missile costs about $50,000 (missiles expected to land away from civilian targets are ignored; that's a good idea because a generic Qassam missile may be built just for $800). About 400 hostile missiles were recently intercepted. Lots of good was done for $20 million, lots of praise has been earned by Amir Peretz, a left-wing ex-defense minister who was able to see the future through covered binoculars.
A light bulb revolution?
A new type of a light bulb is as efficient as LED bulbs, has better, more white light, is flexible, the color is adjustable.
FIPEL light bulbs are based on field-induced polymer electroluminiscence and could be sold commercially as early as in 2013. If the price is OK enough, that would probably mean an early death for the fluorescent light bulbs in particular.