ECONOMY

Sofia’s MW loan

SOFIA/TIRANA (Reuters) – Bulgaria’s state electricity utility NETC said yesterday it was seeking to borrow -250 million to launch the construction of a new 2,000-megawatt nuclear power plant. Bulgaria has contracted Russia’s Atomstroyexport to build the -4 billion plant in the Danube river town of Belene in an attempt to hold onto its position as a leading power exporter in southeastern Europe. «The credit is needed to finance the project’s design, the supply of equipment and the construction works in the first year of its implementation,» NETC said in a statement. Atomstroyexport has said it would be ready to launch work on the plant this year and expected it to be operational by 2013. NETC has said it plans to seek financing for the big project through the export agencies of the chosen builders – Russia, France and Germany – and from leading global investment banks, Europe’s Euratom and the European Investment Bank. Bulgaria plans to keep 51 percent in the new plant and seek a strategic investor for the remaining shares. Albania urges review On Monday, power-hungry Albania called on the European Union to review the shutdown of a Bulgarian nuclear power plant until alternative resources were built, saying it had disrupted the Balkan electricity market. Lack of rain that has almost dried up the reservoirs of its hydroelectric schemes and the failure of suppliers to respect contracts because of the Bulgarian plant closure have caused power cuts of 12 hours a day in Albania since November. «We call on the European Commission and the European Union to review this obligation of Bulgaria because it actually hurts the entire regional market rather than Bulgaria itself,» Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha told a news conference. «I hope our voice is heard because it is not just our voice, but of all governments in the region… because I think we have a serious problem until new power sources will solve the problem created by the Bulgarian power plant shutdown,» Berisha said. Flanking his Bulgarian counterpart Sergei Stanishev, Berisha said the shutdown of two 440-MW reactors at the Kozloduy nuclear plant had «imposed political decisions elsewhere, including power exports in order to avoid energy crises.» Kozloduy was long criticized by Western Europe as unsafe. Bulgaria was obliged to shut down the reactors in line with its obligations to the European Union when it became an EU member on January 1, but is now trying to enlist support among the Balkan states to get the EU to re-think its decision. Stanishev said he believed the countries of the region should inform the EU of their electricity woes and added that fellow EU member Greece might be affected during the summer. Berisha said Bulgaria was a major source of cheaper power to the Balkans to fuel its rapid economic growth.