Bulgaria to press ahead with Belene Nuclear Power Plant on tough terms

The Bulgarian authorities have indicated that the construction of a nuclear power plant on the River Danube near the town of Belene will break ground in 2020-21, according to a briefing that accompanied yesterday’s state visit of Russian Premier Dmitry Medvedev to Sofia.

The 2GW project was to have been built by Russia’s Rosatom, but the race has now been entered by the China National Nuclear Corporation, France’s Framatome, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power and GE of America. The government of Bulgaria is presently deliberating over which bid to accept.

The briefing also confirmed earlier statements from the Bulgarians that potential bidders should be willing to take on the work without the provision of state guarantees or long-term power purchase agreements.

Other conditions include a €10bn maximum price and a 10-year maximum construction period, and a commitment to use as much as possible of the €620m of equipment that Rosatom has already delivered to the site.

The Belene plant has been the subject of discussion and dispute since it was first conceived as the site of Bulgaria’s second nuclear plant in the 1970s, and site preparation work began as far ago as 1980. In 2006, the Atomstroyexport company, a Rosatom subsidiary, won an international tender to build two reactors at Belene, but the project was frozen in 2009 after the government headed by Boyko Borisov had come to power. It was then cancelled in 2012 owing to a lack of investment capital.

Borisov announced in May last year that the project would be restarted, and in November his government announced that a request for tenders had been launched to selected companies around the world.

Temenuzhka Petkova, Bulgaria’s energy minister, said at the time that the country would not commit more public funds to Belene, extend state or corporate guarantees or offer investors power supply contracts at preferential rates.

Image: The town of Belene on the Danube river (Dreamstime)

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