The prime minister of Bulgaria has indicated that he is considering reviving a plan to allow Russia to build a nuclear power station, despite the acrimony surrounding his decision in 2012 to cancel it.
The Belene nuclear plant was called off during Prime Minister Boyko Borisov’s first administration, which held power between 2009 and 2013. Last month the government lost an arbitration suit filed by Atomstroyexport, the subsidiary of Rosatom that deals with the export of nuclear engineering services, which had been commissioned to build the reactor and other equipment for the plant.
The outcome of the arbitration left Bulgaria with a bill of €550m ($610m) to Atomstroyexport, although it will be able to take possession of the machinery that was delivered before the stop order.
Either we have to set aside €550m in the new budget and all the interest rates piling up daily, or we have to lift the moratorium and build the Belene plant– Boyko Borisov, Belgian Prime Minister
The Novenite news agency in Sofia reported that Borisov told reporters on Sunday, 10 July, that his cabinet was considering several options, including talks with Russian authorities or a sale of the reactor to a third country, such as Iran.
He said: "If none of these options is successful, then I will go to parliament and say: ‘Either we have to set aside €550m in the new budget and all the interest rates piling up daily, or we have to lift the moratorium and build the Belene plant."
The plant was to have been built on Bulgaria’s northern border on the Danube River, which caused concern in Romania over the safety of the plant. Discussions about the project began in the 1970s and initial work began in 1988, only to be abandoned in 1990 after the fall of the Soviet Union. The project was restarted in 2002, although it was not until September 2008 that work on site began again.
The project ran aground over disputes between the Bulgarian client and their Russian contractor over the construction cost of the power station. In December 2010 a price of €6.3bn was agreed, however the Bulgarians subsequently demanded that it be reduced to €5bn, which led to the termination of the project in March 2012.
The plant was to have been fitted with a four third-generation light water reactor, each with an electricity output of 1GW.
Image: The town of Belene, where the plant will be sited (if it is ever built) (Chyenne/Wikimedia Commons)