Sofia wants to recruit private investors to help it resurrect plans to build the Belene nuclear power plant (NPP) in the north of the country.
The government shelved the project to install two 1,000-MW Russian-made reactors at Belene on the Danube four years ago, citing a lack of funding. Opposition from Washington and Brussels towards increasing Bulgaria’s dependency on Russian energy is also believed to have factored in the decision.
In June, however, an arbitration court in Geneva ruled that Sofia had to pay 550 million euros (US$614 million) to Russian nuclear firm Rosatom for equipment that was already supplied. This equated to half the compensation that Rosatom was seeking.
In light of the court’s decision, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov suggested on August 12 that the project could move forward with private investment.
“We have a very changed situation,” he said in an interview with local television. “We are obliged to pay for these two reactors.”
“Let us make it a private project through the privatisation agency with various options for the state’s share. This is the solution,” he said.
In late June it emerged that Sofia was working on an agreement with Rosatom that would allow it to sell the already-ordered reactor to a third party. The government had hoped to export the unit to Iran, which has launched an ambitious nuclear development programme of its own. According to reports, however, Tehran expressed little interest in the proposal.
Bulgaria’s National Electric Company (NEC) struck a deal with Rosatom subsidiary Atomstroyexport in 2008 for the design, construction and installation of two reactors at Belene.
Bulgaria currently generates 40% of its power from the 2,000-MW Soviet-era Kozlodui NPP, situated 160 km away from the capital.
Recent talk of reviving the Russian nuclear project in Belene comes ahead of presidential elections scheduled for October, when national energy security is likely to be a key talking point.