Bulgaria revives Belene project

9 November 2018

Bulgaria’s Energy Minister Temenuzhka Petkova said on 7 November that the government will seek initial expressions of interest from four foreign firms to invest in a revived project to build a NPP at the Belene site on the Danube. Invitations to become strategic investors in the €10 billion ($11.3 billion) scheme will be sent to China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), France’s Framatome, Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co (KHNP), she told reporters.

The 2,000MWe Belene NPP was cancelled in 2012 after failing to find investors and facing pressure from Washington and Brussels to limit its energy dependence on Russia, which was under contract to build the plant. In June, parliament ordered the government to revive the project, and Petkova said an investment plan had been drafted that would take about a year to implement.

In December 2016, following international arbitration, Bulgaria paid €601.6 million ($691.5 million) in compensation to Atomstroyexport (part of Rosatom) for the equipment already manufactured for the plant. The equipment is now stored at the construction site. The reactors and other equipment is now owned by the Bulgarian state, and can become assets of the project company before, during or after the negotiations with potential strategic investors.

Petkova said Bulgaria would not commit more public funds to Belene, or extend state or corporate guarantees or offer investors power supply contracts at preferential rates. Under the new plan, which is awaiting parliamentary approval, the energy ministry will shortlist eligible bidders and agree a shareholder structure.

“The procedure is due to go through nine stages, the first being an invitation to potential investors,” Petkova said.“If all goes well, in one year we (will)... start to work on the financing and the structuring.” She added that large electricity consumers would be eligible to bid for minority stakes or electricity purchase contracts.

In June, the energy ministry said it has received an official letter from French energy group Areva (now Framatome), expressing interest in participating in the   project.  CNNC and Rosatom have also expressed their interest. Within a year, a project company will be created, which will seek funding for the NPP and will structure the project. 

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