Bulgaria unveils plan for nuclear power plant

SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria’s government has agreed to a plan for the construction of a new $2 billion nuclear power plant, Energy Minister Milko Kovachev said yesterday. The EU aspirant relaunched the Belene nuclear power plant project in May to secure its position as a leading Balkan power exporter after it shuts down two nuclear Soviet-made reactors by the end of 2006. «The Cabinet has decided how to proceed with the project at a closed meeting on June 24… We will launch two tenders for choosing a contractor and a financial adviser for Belene by the end of July,» Kovachev told reporters. He said the plan was not made public due to details which were still to be discussed before launching the process. Setting security and the electricity production price as the main selection criteria, Kovachev said the three consortiums which have shown interest in the deal will be invited to place final bids by late autumn. One of the consortiums includes Czech engineering firm Skoda Praha, Citibank, Italy’s Unicredito and the Czech Republic’s Komercni Banka. Another group vying for the contract includes France’s Framatome and Russia’s Atomstroiexport. The third groups Canada’s Atomic Energy Canada Ltd with Italy’s Ansaldo Nuclear, Bechtel of the US and Japan’s Hitachi Corp. Bulgaria has sunk $1 billion into Belene, located some 250 kilometers (155 miles) northeast of Sofia, when it began the project in the 1980s, but later halted work due to a lack of funds. The first two groups are offering to continue work on the abandoned site, where a 1,000 megawatt Soviet-designed reactor was supplied but not installed. The third recommends building a new plant. The center-right government of Simeon Saxe-Coburg was also mulling the creation of one company for its operational nuclear units at Kozloduy and for building new reactors with 1400-2000 megawatts of capacity in Belene, to become operational in 2010. «I expect the set-up of the new company, in which the State will allot the Belene site and the operating units at Kozloduy after choosing a contractor by the end of the year,» Kovachev said. The new company will seek a loan of up to 350 million euros ($430.2 million) from EU’s Euroatom fund and from the national credit export agencies. (Reuters)