Sofia moves to revive nuclear power project

Sofia moves to revive nuclear power project

Sofia moves to revive nuclear power project

Bulgaria’s parliament opened the way yesterday to revive a long-delayed project to build a new nuclear power plant by tasking the energy minister to hold talks with potential strategic investors.

The decision was backed by 172 MPs from all parties in the 240-seat chamber, with only 14 voting against.

It will allow Energy Minister Temenuzhka Petkova to enter into negotiations with possible investors for a new 2,000-megawatt nuclear power plant in Belene on the Danube.

However, the text approved by MPs means Petkova will not be allowed to offer any state credit guarantees or preferential electricity contracts to any new participant in the project.

In 2012, Bulgaria scrapped a previous deal to build the plant with Russia’s nuclear company Atomstroyexport, after failing to find any foreign investors prepared to shoulder its spiraling costs, estimated at the time at about 10 billion euros ($11.8 billion).

Bulgaria had also come under U.S. and EU pressure to limit its energy dependence on Russia.

The scrapping of the project angered Russia, which had hoped to use Belene as an EU showcase for its new generation of pressurized water reactors.

Bulgaria had to pay Atomstroyexport some 601 million euros in compensation after the firm took it to international arbitration.

In addition all the necessary equipment for the twin-reactor plant had already been paid for and delivered, and is currently being kept in storage at the proposed site for the plant.

China’s National Nuclear Corporation, Atomstroyexport’s parent corporation Rosatom, and a third anonymous bidder have already expressed renewed interest in the project.

French company Framatome also said recently it was interested in joining the project as a supplier.

“I hope that this interest will be confirmed,” Petkova told journalists after the vote on June 7.

Aside from picking up where the previous plan for the plant left off, Petkova has also recently said that another option was building Belene with Russian funding on the model of Hungary’s Paks II plant.

Bulgaria currently operates one Soviet-built 2,000-megawatt nuclear power plant at Kozloduy, also on the Danube, which supplies one-third of the country’s electricity.

But plans to revive Belene have met with opposition from experts who say it would not be economically viable as neither Bulgaria nor its neighbours are expected to need new energy sources before 2035.