PRAGUE -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has visited Prague on the first leg of a European tour, meeting with Czech leaders for talks on "strengthening Czech energy independence."
"Energy security and energy diversification are top issues for our foreign policies around the world," she said. "This is not just about Europe and it is certainly not just about the Czech Republic."
Clinton asked the Czechs to choose the U.S. firm Westinghouse over Russia's Atomstroyexport to build a multibillion-dollar nuclear project at the Temelin power plant.
"The Czech people deserve the best value, the most tested and trustworthy technology, an outstanding safety record, responsible and accountable management, and job opportunities for Czech companies and workers," she said. "Westinghouse offers all of these things."
U.S. officials are encouraging the Czechs to reduce their energy dependence on Russia.
Westinghouse faces competition from Russia's Atomstroyexport, the construction wing of state nuclear company Rosatom.
Atomstroyexport is part of a consortium that also includes Russian company Rusgidro and Czech company Skoda JS.
Rosatom has backed the Russo-Czech consortium's bid for the Temelin project by dangling the prospect of Czech companies supplying most of the material and including Czech companies in Rosatom nuclear projects in third countries.
Construction of Temelin started in the late 1980s; the plant was based on a Soviet design.
After the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, work on Temelin was suspended. In 1993, the Czech government approved plans to finish the plant but hired Westinghouse to make alterations to the original design and complete the work on the first two reactors.
That work was finished with the first reactor starting operation in 2000 and the second in 2002.
The Czech government now wants a third and fourth unit installed at the plant and has said it will announce the winner of the tender in 2013.
France's Areva was also in the bidding until October 5, when the Czech government excluded it from the tender.
Clinton praised the Czech Republic for its "commitment to nuclear safety and security and support for nonproliferation."
After Prague, Clinton is traveling to Brussels for a NATO meeting and to meet Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar. Clinton's tour will also include stops in Ireland and British-ruled Northern Ireland.
With additional reporting by CTK, AP, and Reuters