Bulgaria's council of ministers met in January to discuss the future of nuclear power (credit: Council of Ministers)The Bulgarian government has approved a report by the Minister of Energy on the actions taken and the results of the study on the possibilities for construction of a new nuclear unit at site No 2 of the Kozloduy NPP.

The government said the project should be viewed in the context of achieving the goals of the European Union for climate neutrality by 2050 and diversification of energy resources.

Energy Minister Temenuzhka Petkova reporting to Prime Minister Borissov recalled that in October 2020, the Council of Ministers took a decision giving a mandate to Kozloduy NPP to enter into negotiations with US companies that are developing new nuclear technologies.

She said that the aim was to look for an opportunity to implement unit 7 of Kozloduy NPP at site No 2, which already has approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Agency and an environmental impact assessment (EIA). By order of the Minister of Energy, a working group was set up  including experts from Kozloduy NPP, Kozloduy NPP – New Capacities, and international experts, and their report was completed on 19 January.

"In the course of the group's work, talks were held, correspondence was exchanged with colleagues from Westinghouse, as one of three approved EIA technologies,” Petkova said. One technology is the US AP1000 reactor, the other two are Russian technologies, including the reactors manufactured for the Belene nuclear plant. The expert report notes that Kozloduy 7 could be implemented using equipment from the Belene project.

"These are extremely important infrastructure projects that guarantee national security, energy security and diversification,” said Prime Minister Boyko Borissov. “In addition, they can use the equipment paid for by the state and the taxpayers for the Belene NPP. I think that after the 7th unit we will go for the 8th reactor.”

"With our report we have provided the opportunity to make a reasoned  and informed decision about the future of our energy. This project is not easy, but with good organisation we can launch a new unit within ten years", the executive director of Kozloduy NPP, Nasko Mihov, emphasised.

According to the report, the Minister of Energy should take the necessary actions to make full use of the capacity of the site   for construction of new nuclear power, including rational use of equipment already delivered for Belene. The Minister of Energy must prepare a model for financial structuring of the project and a legal analysis of the applicable national, European and international legal framework. The Minister will also allow continued studies of the possibilities for building a new nuclear power plant using new nuclear technologies for small modular reactors.

Significantly, the report did not consider completion of the Belene project. Earlier, Rosatom, Framatome and General Electric were shortlisted among five applicants for implementation of the Belene project, along with the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power. The announcement of the procedure for selecting a strategic investor for the Belene NPP was published in May 2019, in the Official Journal of the European Union. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the tender deadline was postponed by Bulgaria.

The Belene project was for the construction of two Russian VVER-1000/V-466 reactors and preliminary site works began in 2008. Contracts for components including large forgings and I&C systems were signed with suppliers.The plant was to be built by Atomstroyexport (part of Rosatom) after Russia won an international tender in 2006  but the project was cancelled in 2012, after a change of government. It was revived, again, in 2018 after a series of arbitration procedures, which saw Bulgaria pay €601.6 million ($691.5m) in compensation to Atomstroyexport for the equipment already manufactured. These components are now stored at the construction site.

In 2020 persistent lobbying by the USA and Westinghouse led to a nuclear cooperation agreement being signed with Washington and the establishment of the working group to consider alternative energy projects.

Bulgaria's council of ministers met in January to discuss the future of nuclear power (credit: Council of Ministers)