Russia prepared to build NPPs in Bulgaria after winning Belene compensation

22 June 2016

Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom has said it is ready to consider the option of building new NPPs in Bulgaria despite the cancellation of the Belene project. "Everything is negotiable," Rosatom Director General Sergey Kirienko told TV channel Russia 24 on 16 June. "We work with the Bulgarian nuclear energy sector at present. If decisions are of professional and not political nature, we'll always reach an agreement," Kirienko added.

Kirienko's comment came after Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov announced in Sofia that the International Court of Arbitration in Paris had ruled in favour of Russia's Atomstroyexport, a subsidiary of Rosatom, over the cancelled Belene NPP.

Rosatom filed the lawsuit against Bulgaria's state-owned National Electricity Company (NEK) after Borisov's first cabinet in March 2012 abandoned the Belene project after 1,000MWe reactors and the respective power generation equipment had already been ordered by a previous government in 2008. NEK will have to pay €620m to Atomstroyexport in compensation for the ordered equipment and the work done, according to the court's ruling. Russia had claimed €1.2bn in its court action.

Bulgaria will have to decide now whether to buy one of the reactors, which has already been manufactured, or agree with Russia to sell it to a third party. Commenting on the result of the legal procedures, Rosatom noted that it still evaluates the Belene NPP project as "excellent" and "regrets that it has been stopped, because if the contract is met, the plant would already have been built by now".

The Belene NPP construction agreement, for two VVER-1000 reactors, was signed in 2006. Russia offered a loan to finance construction activities until a strategic investor was found, but this offer was rejected by the Bulgarian government in 2010. Subsequently, the parties signed a number of addendums to the agreement to prolong it and continue working on the project until the Bulgarian government to continue project in 2012 saying it was not profitable.

Bulgarian Energy Minister Temenuzhka Petkova said on 15 June that Bulgaria would be prepared to pursue the development of new nuclear capacities on certain conditions. At an international energy conference in Varna, she said the state could not be involved as an investor as it is seeking to keep public finance under control. She further added that any future expansion of capacities should not be to the detriment of other plans such the extension of life of units 5 and 6 at the Kozloduy NPP. That work is being undertaken by Russian companies Rosenergoatom and Rusatom Services and France's EDF.

Earlier, Bulgaria had been considering construction of a new unit - No 7 - at Kozloduy NPP, with Westinghouse Electric Company pre-selected as the supplier, until Prime Minister Borisov announced the state could not take part as a strategic investor as the intial plan had envisaged. Last year he urged the company to return to Bulgaria in compliance with the government's new demands.



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