ECONOMY

Russian reactors advised

SOFIA – Bulgaria should build a new 2,000-megawatt nuclear power plant with Russian-designed reactors and consolidate all its nuclear assets in one company, the government’s adviser on the project said yesterday. The Balkan country is building the plant to maintain its position as the leading power exporter in Southeast Europe as it shuts down two aging Soviet-made nuclear reactors before joining the EU in 2007. «Our analysis is based on the capital cost of different options… and it shows that two options are superior to others,» said Djurica Tankosic, a vice president of UK-based consultants Parsons, during a public discussion of the project. He said Bulgaria should either build two new 1,000-megawatt VVR-B466 reactors, or build one new one and modernize a 1,000-megawatt VVR-B320 unit that it bought during a previous attempt to build the plant that stalled last decade. All of the proposed reactors are Russian designed, giving an advantage to two of three groups vying to build the plant that have experience with that type of equipment. In one of them, France’s Framatome has teamed up with Russia’s Atomstroiexport and Germany’s Siemens. The second comprises Czech engineering firm Skoda Praha, which is working with Citibank, Italy’s Unicredito and Czech Komercni Banka. The third consortium is led by Canada’s Atomic Energy Canada Ltd and also groups Italy’s Ansaldo Nuclear, US Bechtel, and Japan’s Hitachi Corp. Atomic Energy Canada has complained that Bulgaria is biased against their offering of CANDU-type reactors, which the adviser has deemed less suitable. The consortium has said it may pull out of the contest. Tankosic said the two preferred options – priced at 2.68 billion and 2.73 billion euros, respectively – showed an insignificant cost difference, while the financial adviser on the project, Deloitte & Touche, said if either option was chosen, the deal’s total price tag would be around 3.5 billion euros. Bulgaria has already sunk $1.0 billion into the site – located some 250 kilometers northeast of Sofia at the Danube River town of Belene – for infrastructure and the uninstalled VVR-B320 unit, but the project bogged down due to financial problems in 1990. Belene is expected to come on line in around 2011. Consolidation Former king Simeon Saxe-Coburg’s centrist government is now expected to launch tenders and choose an option and builders for the plant by June. The advisers also suggested Bulgaria consolidate its nuclear assets to be able to provide more solid collateral and secure better financial conditions for the deal. Energy Minister Milko Kovachev has said the two 1,000-megawatt units at Bulgaria’s existing nuclear power plant at Kozloduy will be transferred to a new company that also will build and operate the Belene plant. He has said the state will seek investors to take part in financing the project, but will still keep at least a 51 percent stake in the generator.