SOFIA (AFP) – Russian company Atomstroyexport has offered to complete Bulgaria’s second nuclear power plant, at Belene in the north of the country, for just under 4 billion euros ($5.1 billion), officials said yesterday. «Atomstroyexport has offered to build the Belene plant together with its subcontractors, French Framatome and German Siemens, at a cost not exceeding 3.997 billion euros,» Bulgaria’s National Electricity Company (NEC) executive Lyubomir Velkov told a press conference. Previous estimates had put the cost of the project at about 2.5 billion euros. NEC announced late Monday that Atomstroyexport had been chosen as a preferred bidder in a government tender to build the long-stalled plant but did not elaborate on the details. Atomstroyexport and the Czech company Skoda earlier this year submitted binding offers to build the facility, which will include two VVER 1,000-megawatt pressurized water reactors. The two companies offered several proposals for the plant. One provided for two new reactors, another combined one new reactor with a 1,000-megawatt Skoda reactor Bulgaria bought in the 1990s. «After reviewing the bids, we chose Atomstroyexport’s offer to supply two new reactors, use the existing foundation at the site, and buy back the equipment we already have,» Velkov said. «Safety was the major criterion for evaluating the bids,» he added. The first of the two third-generation reactors is expected to be operational six-and-a-half years after construction starts, and the second a year later, company plans showed. The reactors will have an operating life of up to 60 years.