Bulgaria’s Energy Ministry announce on 22 August that 13 applications had been submitted for participation in the procedure for selecting a strategic investor for the construction of the Belene NPP. Three of them had been expected – Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom (through Atomenergoprom), China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), and Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP).
Other applicants for a strategic investor position are: Bektron-Liaz-Technical Engineering company registered in Germany; Bulgarian consortium AEC Belene, comprising Atomenergoremont, UZK, Grand Yednerzhi and Kvant; Atomna Power Centre Belene 2019 consortium, including Bulgarian company Group International and Czech company Vitkovice Heavy Machinery; and Bulgarian companies IPK and UP.
Four bidders expressed interest in lesser roles, either to become minority shareholders, or to conclude agreements on the redemption of certain volumes of electricity (or both). These include: Grand Energy Distribution company (Bulgaria) - minority stake and electricity purchase agreement; Atomenergoremont AD (Bulgaria) - minority stake; EuroPian Trade of Energy AD - an agreement on the purchase of electricity; Northern Macedonia - a minority stake and an agreement on the purchase of electricity (the conciliation procedure for the application of this country is still ongoing).
Two more applications came from companies wishing to supply systems and equipment to - France’s Framatome and US-based General Electric. It is possible that these companies will also take part in financing projects in their area of ??responsibility. “There has been a lot of scepticism about whether there would be any interest at all in the project, “ said Energy Minister Temenuzhka Petkova. “With the applications we have received there is no doubt, because these are some of the global leaders in the nuclear energy.”
A task force that will include representatives of state electric utility NEK, its parent company Bulgarian Energy Holding and grid operator ESO, will draft a shortlist of strategic investor candidates within 90 days. The procedure is flexible and allows the selected strategic investor to discuss with companies that have a minority interest in the project or an interest in purchasing electricity, the Energy Ministry said. The procedure is expected to be completed in 12 months.
Initially, the 2000MWe Belene plant was to be built with the participation of Russia after Atomstroyexport (part of Rosatom) won an international tender in 2006 for the design, construction and commissioning of two VVER-1000 reactors. However, the project was cancelled in 2012, after a change of government. The project was revived, again, in June 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.
The procedure for selecting a strategic investor for Bulgaria’s Belene NPP project was published in the Official Journal of the European Union in May. Bulgaria said it would participate in the project company by contributing assets including the licensed site, nuclear island equipment, permits and documentation. According to the call for interest, the station must be operational within 10 years from the signing of an investors’ agreement and its cost must not exceed €10bn for both units.