Five EPC companies express interest in Kozloduy expansion project

6 February 2024

Kozloduy NPP subsidiary, Kozloduy NPP-Newbuild (KZNPP-NM - Kozloduy NPP Novi Mostnosti) has announced that five companies have expressed interest in building units 7&8 at Bulgaria’s Kozloduy NPP under an EPC (engineering, procurement & construction) contract. KZNPP-NM invited expressions of interest in January with applications to be submitted by 2 February.

While the units are to have Westinghouse AP1000 reactors, US-based Westinghouse will not take part in the construction but will retain overall control of the project. Applicants were required to demonstrate construction experience and commissioning of at least two nuclear units, to have solid experience in nuclear and turbine island of at least two units or have supplied and installed equipment for two units within the last 15 years. Applicants were also expected to demonstrate at least $6bn in turnover and profit for five years from 2018 to 2022.

Deputy Energy Minister Nikolay Nikolov told Bulgaria's official BTA news agency in December that the aim was to achieve a price of about €6bn ($6.5bn) for each of the units. For comparison, in 2014, when an earlier agreement was signed for the construction of Kozloduy 5 using AP-1000 technology, its price was estimated at $7.7bn.

The Ministry of Energy did not reveal the names of the companies. However, at the end of January, KZNPP Director Valentin Nikolov told reporters that unofficial interest had been expressed by US Bechtel, which is already working with Westinghouse projects in Poland and the Czech Republic, and South Korea’s Hyundai, another Westinghouse partner. Other potential candidates included China National Nuclear Corporation, Électricité de France (EDF) and US-based Fluor, the parent company of small modular reactor company NuScale.

Nikolov told a nuclear conference in Sofia that a financing option is being considered based on 30% as equity capital and 70% as attracted capital. Preliminary talks with banks have already been held, he noted, but the details will become clear at a later stage. In December, the Bulgarian parliament approved a government proposal to inject up to BGN1.5bn ($834.7m) into Kozloduy NPP for the construction of the two new reactors. According to Nikolov, between 5,000 and 10,000 people are expected to be directly involved in the construction of the two units and supporting activities.

Currently, Kozloduy NPP operates two Soviet-built VVER-1000 reactors (units 5&6). Bulgaria was obliged to close four older VVER-440 units as a condition for accession to the European Union, even though the units had undergone significant safety upgrades.

In January 2023, the Bulgarian Parliament by a majority vote decided on the need to build two new reactors (units 7&8) using AP1000 technology and obliged the government to negotiate with the US government on this issue. In March KZNPP-NM and Westinghouse set up a joint working group to plan deployment of the AP1000 reactor in Bulgaria. In June, Westinghouse signed a Front-End Engineering & Design (FEED) contract with KZNPP-NM for a AP1000 reactor to be constructed at the Kozloduy NPP site.

According to the parliamentary schedule for construction of the new units, the construction company must be selected by 30 April 2024 and will then join a consortium with Westinghouse. The participants in the construction consortium will share responsibilities for the design, construction of the equipment, delivery and installation, but a Bulgarian design company will control implementation at the consortium level. The activities for construction and installation, commissioning and start-up of the new reactors will be fixed in a separate document, which, however, will be part of the general contract between KZNPP-NM and the consortium.

Image: Kozloduy nuclear power plant (courtesy of Kozloduy NPP)

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