Russian-US-French team angles for Bulgaria’s Belene nuclear power plant

Rosatom, Russia’s state-owned nuclear engineer, has agreed in principle to form a consortium with Framatome of France and GE Steam Power of the US to bid for the Belene nuclear power plant in Bulgaria.

International cooperation would "help create the best financial and technical conditions" for the plant, said Kirill Komarov, Rosatom’s first deputy director general of corporate development.

If GE becomes an investor, it could contribute its Arabelle steam turbines and other equipment, while Framatome would be considered for the instrumentation and control systems, Rosatom said.

Belene would contain two 1GW Rosatom reactors based on the pressurised water VVER-1000 design.

The town of Belene has been considered as the site for Bulgaria’s second nuclear plant since the 1970s, and site preparation began in 1980.

In 2006, the Atomstroyexport company, a Rosatom subsidiary, won an international tender to build two reactors. Work began in 2008 but was frozen in 2009 and cancelled in 2012 owing to a lack of investment capital.

That decision left Bulgaria with an arbitration case that resulted in a bill of €550m to Atomstroyexport.

When the project was resurrected in 2016, Rosatom was in competition with 12 other bidders, including China National Nuclear Corporation, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, as well as its possible partners Framatome and GE.

In December last year, the Bulgarian energy ministry announced it had shortlisted five applicants, with China National Nuclear Corporation, Rosatom and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power in the running as strategic investors.

The Bulgarian government has said it will take a majority stake in the project, which it expects to be completed by 2030. However, it has said it will not provide financial guarantees, nor buy electricity from the plant under long-term contracts with preferential rates.

Rosatom noted that it has already collaborated with Framatome and GE on the Paks-II plant in Hungary and the Hanhikivi-1 plant in Finland.

Image: The Danube at Belene, where the plant will be sited (Preslav/CC BY-SA 3.0) 

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