ECONOMY

Bulgaria’s nuclear power

SOFIA (AFP) – Three foreign companies yesterday expressed interest in jointly building a new nuclear plant in Bulgaria after meeting with Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg this week. Atomic Energy of Canada (AECL), Japan’s Hitachi and the Italian company Ansaldo Nuclear presented plans for a plant at Belene on the Danube, to supplement energy from Bulgaria’s only nuclear plant at Kozloduy. The president of AECL, Robert van Adel, told journalists such a project «could work» and that there was no reason «why we should not be able to find the money to finance it.» AECL, together with the Russian company Atomstroieksport, the USA’s Westinghouse, France’s Framatome and the Czech company Skoda, presented the Bulgarian Energy Ministry with plans for a nuclear reactor. The Bulgarian government is expected to open a bidding process once they have examined these plans. The government decided at the end of 2002 to relaunch a project to build a nuclear plant at Belene that was begun in 1987 but abandoned three years later due to pressure from environmentalists. The State had invested $1.3 billion (1.04 billion euros) in infrastructure and had bought a Czech 1,000-megawatt water pressure reactor. «We will see whether our design is acceptable to the European Union,» said Patrick Tighen, the vice president of AECL. Belene lies 40 kilometers (25 miles) to the west of Kozloduy, which provides more than 45 percent of Bulgaria’s electricity. The plant has six reactors but the two oldest were shut down at the end of 2002. Two other Soviet-era 440-megawatt reactors are due to be shut down in 2006 under an agreement with Brussels made during the course of Bulgaria’s accession negotiations with the European Union, which it hopes to join in 2007. AECL and Ansaldo in 1996 jointly built Romania’s nuclear reactor at Cernavoda.