SOFIA (SeeNews) – A consortium that includes Czech CEZ’s engineering unit Skoda Praha and a group of Russian Atomstroyexport and French-German Framatome have placed bids in a tender to build a 2,000-megawatt nuclear power plant in Bulgaria, an official said yesterday. «We received offers from Atomstroyexport on January 31, 2006, and from Skoda Alliance on February 1, 2006,» Yulian Zhelyazkov, chairman of the committee that will evaluate the offers, told reporters. The groups have offered to design, build and put into operation the Belene nuclear power plant located on the bank of the Danube River. «Within three months, we will be able to speak about terms [for signing the deal]; it is too early yet,» Jordan Dimov, deputy minister of economy and energy, told SeeNews. He added that the government evaluation committee would announce the value of the offers in due course of assessment. «No changes in the structure of the consortia have been made,» said Dimov. Skoda Alliance comprises Czech power utility’s CEZ unit Skoda Praha and Czech research body UJV Rez. It is planning to include also US Westinghouse and other CEZ firms and would be backed by Citibank, Unicredit and the Czech Komercni Banka. The Atomstroyexport group includes also Framatome ANP, owned by France’s Areva, and German Siemens. Both consortia offered similar projects – one for the construction of two units, using existing equipment and infrastructure, the other without using the existing facilities. The offers differed in the third options offered – Atomstroyexport offered to build only a so-called nuclear island, or part of the facility, including solely the turbine equipment, while Skoda Alliance offered the use of an alternative turbine. «The nuclear island means [using] only part of the facility to be constructed. [In this case] that will be only the turbine part of the facility,» said Dimov. «The third option is indeed an alternative, which includes an offer for a new turbine,» Miroslav Fiala, general manager of energy equipment-maker Skoda JS, owned by Gazprom unit OMZ, told reporters. He added that alternative option envisaged the use of the current turbine, which has been supplied by Skoda’s plants in Ukraine. In the late 1980s, Bulgaria delivered a 1,000-megawatt Soviet-designed reactor to the Belene site, but halted construction work in 1991 due to lack of cash and mounting concerns over the region’s seismic instability. To save on the project’s total costs, the government said it wants to use as much of the equipment and infrastructure already on site as possible and add another 1.9 billion euros in new equipment. This infrastructure has now been evaluated at some 500 million euros. Fiala declined to name the producer of the new turbine, but said the Skoda Alliance offer envisages alternative suppliers of nuclear fuel and that the consortium was ready to finance up to 100 percent of the project costs. «We have submitted a very detailed offer… in 177 boxes, around 3 tons, which will take Bulgarian experts time to study. We hope that by the middle of this summer it will be clear who will get the deal,» Vladimir Parygin, head of Atomstroyexport’s department for overseas construction of nuclear plants, told reporters. He added that the Bulgarian government planned signing the contract by the end of 2005. «As soon as a contract is signed, we will immediately start construction,» said Parygin. The cost of the construction works has been projected at some 2.7 billion euros by international consultants. The price can rise to 4 billion euros, when financing costs are included. Bulgaria hopes to complete the construction of the new power plant by 2011. Bulgaria, which expects to join the European Union in 2007, hopes that the Belene plant will make up for the generating capacity it will lose after closing a second pair of 440MW reactors at its existing Kozloduy nuclear power plant at end-2006 in a move aimed to allay nuclear safety concerns of the EU. The country bowed to EU pressure and closed down two of Kozloduy’s 440MW units at the end of 2002. Kozloduy also operates another two more modern reactors of 1,000MW each. Bulgaria, which is a net power exporter, has estimated it would need two nuclear units with a combined capacity of between 1,600MW and 2,000MW to bridge the expected electricity supply gap following the closure of the four older 440MW units at Kozloduy.