Fact Sheet: The United States and Czech Republic: Civil Nuclear Cooperation
The United States and the Czech Republic share a long history of cooperation based on shared values and shared interests, including promoting economic prosperity, supporting regional stability and strengthening energy security. In the energy sector, the United States and the Czech Republic have taken a number of steps over the past two years to continue deepening our bilateral relationship:
- Prague Vision. Within his first 100 days in office, President Obama traveled to Prague to lay out his nuclear agenda, including his vision for a world free of nuclear weapons and his commitment to the safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear power around the world. He called for new frameworks of international cooperation which allow nations that play by the rules to access nuclear energy without increasing proliferation risks and which better harness nuclear energy to meet the demand for low-carbon electricity.
- Launch of Economic and Commercial Dialogue. Building on the framework President Obama articulated in Prague in April 2009, the Department of Commerce led a civil nuclear trade policy mission to the Czech Republic in July 2010. This mission, which was led by Under Secretary for International Trade Francisco Sánchez, included a representative from the U.S. Department of Energy and approximately 15 senior representatives from the civil nuclear industry. In conjunction with this visit, Under Secretary Sánchez also launched the U.S.-Czech Economic and Commercial Dialogue in December 2010. The Dialogue, which includes representatives from U.S. and Czech government agencies, has four main goals: to increase bilateral business development and trade promotion; to facilitate investment expansion; to foster innovation; and to identify and resolve market access issues.
- Joint Declaration on Civil Nuclear Commercial Cooperation. That same month, then-U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, and Czech Republic Minister of Industry and Trade Martin Kocourek also joined together to sign a joint declaration expanding cooperation in civil nuclear energy research and development (R&D) and strengthening commercial relations between our two nations.
Cooperative Scientific and Technical Initiatives. The Joint Declaration specifically recognized the importance of partnering on nuclear R&D efforts, which is why the U.S. Department of Energy, Czech Ministry of Industry and Trade, Czech Nuclear Research Institute Řež, U.S. Embassy in Prague, Texas A&M, and the Czech Nuclear Education Network (CENEN) joined together last month to announce a series of cooperative scientific and technical initiatives. These R&D programs will leverage each country’s areas of expertise to help advance the development of safe and secure nuclear energy in both countries. The collaboration will focus on the following areas:
- Creation of a Civil Nuclear Cooperation Center in Prague. The United States and the Czech Republic will establish a Civil Nuclear Cooperation Center in Prague to facilitate and coordinate joint work. The center will build on current collaboration in the nuclear field. In addition to working on nuclear energy activities, experts from both countries will continue to collaborate on nuclear security issues such as material control and accounting, physical protection and other safeguards. Common projects announced by the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy during his recent visit to Prague could serve as test cases for beginning collaboration through the center
- Research with Texas A&M and Czech Universities. Texas A&M University will collaborate with several Czech universities, including Brno University of Technology, the Czech Technical University, and the University of West Bohemia, to research ways of improving the efficiency of reactor core analyses and identify additional ways to continue improving the safety of nuclear materials and technologies.
- Fluoride Volatility Research. Researchers from the U.S. Savannah River and Pacific Northwest National Laboratories and the Czech Nuclear Research Institute Řež will work together to share information on fluoride volatility methods and how they can be employed to treat used nuclear fuel. This will include a bilateral workshop conducted at Řež this winter to review current R&D efforts and identify common research objectives and opportunities for additional collaboration.
- High School Science Teacher Exchanges. The United States and the Czech Republic will also be launching an exchange program for high school science teachers, which will be administered and funded by the state of Texas through the Nuclear Power Institute and the Center for Large Scale Scientific Simulation. During the spring of 2012, two Texas high school science teachers will visit the Czech Republic for a week, and two Czech high school teachers will visit Texas for a week to learn from one another. The program will facilitate the continued collaboration between teachers and academics in both countries and will help encourage students to enter nuclear energy fields.
Nuclear Safety and Security. Both countries have also joined together to advance nuclear safety and security in the Czech Republic and across Central and Eastern Europe:
- Cooperation Between National Regulators. In 2010, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) extended its Technical Cooperation and Exchange Arrangement with the Czech nuclear regulator, the State Office for Nuclear Safety (SUJB), for an additional four years. Under this arrangement, the NRC and SUJB are working together on new reactor designs, security and incident response, code applications, and accident research. The regulators are also continuing personnel exchanges, and are collaborating to review digital instrumental and control activities at the Temelin nuclear plant.
- Regional Workshop. In addition, the U.S. Department of Energy partnered with the Czech Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, SUJB and the NRC, to conduct a regional Nuclear Safety Workshop on October 10-13, 2011, in Prague. The information exchange workshop provided an opportunity for Central European countries to share technical information and best practices on trends and advances in nuclear safety, including lessons learned from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident. The workshop included a discussion of management practices, safety assessment and verification methods, reactor and plant life extension R&D requirements, accident management, emergency preparedness and public communication, safety culture and related areas that can enhance the safe operation of the current fleet of nuclear power plants.
- Nuclear Terrorism. The United States and the Czech Republic are also working together to address the threats of nuclear terrorism around the world. The Czech Republic is a key partner in the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, including contributing $25,000 earlier this fall to support the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration’s work in Georgia. This funding will be used to install physical protection upgrades at the Secondary Standards Laboratory calibration facility in Tbilisi. This latest effort builds on earlier nuclear security accomplishments between our two countries, including the removal of nearly 95 kilograms of highly-enriched uranium (HEU) in 2005 and 2007, and the conversion of the VR-1 Sparrow reactor and the Řež research reactor from HEU to low-enriched uranium. Unlike HEU, low-enriched uranium cannot be redirected for use in a nuclear weapon.