Bulgaria in early 2018 plans to hold a tender for the sale of the construction of the 2,000MWe Belene NPP, which was originally to have been built by Russia, Energy Minister Temenuzhka Petkova said on 15 August. At the beginning of next year, a privatisation procedure for the company associated with the Belene project is to be launched. The Belene project and all related assets will be separated from Bulgaria’s state-owned National Electric Company (NEK) into a new company which will be sold.

Petkova added that Bulgaria wants to retain a small share in the project worth €10bn ($11.7bn), but stressed there would be no state guarantees or long-term power purchase agreements for investors. She said Bulgaria had spent more than $1.8bn on the project, and by the end of September the last batch of equipment already manufactured for the plant would arrive in Bulgaria from Russia. Petkova said. "We no longer have the right to make mistakes in this project. We need to find the best, economically feasible solution for this equipment, "she noted.

The Belene NPP was intended to replace the decommissioned capacity of the Kozloduy NPP but construction was stopped in 1990 in face of difficulties with financing and public protests. In 2005, a tender was announced for continued construction of the plant, which was won by Atomstroyexport (part of state nuclear corporation Rosatom) and a contract was signed with NEK in 2006. However, the previous government cancelled the project in 2012 after failing to find foreign investors, and under pressure from Brussels and Washington to limit energy dependence on Russia.

In December 2016, Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom received €601.6m from NEK as compensation for the manufactured equipment following a ruling the previous June by the Geneva-based International Court of Arbitration which had awarded Atomstroyexport $620m. However, an agreement was reached whereby Russia agreed to waive interest on the debt provided payment was made within a set time.

The search for investors to revive the project and make use of the equipment is ongoing. Last year the government said that Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) was ready to finance the project. China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) had also expressed an interest in investing in it.

Incotech Cargo, a company contracted by Atomstroyexport, has already completed delivery of some reactor components for Belene, according to a report on the Russian Atomic Community (RAC) website on 11 August. The delivery, carried out in the spring, included 61 components, manufactured at the Izhora machine plants near St Petersburg, with a total weight of some 4,000 tonnes, including a reactor pressure vessel, its top cover and two pressurisers. The consignment included 33 large-sized units weighing from 77 to 327 in 218 packages. The equipment was shipped by sea from St Petersburg to the Romanian port of Constanta and were then transferred to six barges on the Danube river for transport to Belene in three convoys.