Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom has agreed to cooperate with the France’s Framatome and US General Electric Steam Power in the process to select a strategic investor for the Belene NPP project in Bulgaria.

The memoranda of understanding (MOUs) were signed by director of Rosatom's Development and International Business Unit, Kirill Komarov, Framatome SAS senior executive vice president for Regional Sales Frederic Lelyevre and General Electric Steam Power president Michael Kerulle.

“In accordance with the agreements, the companies will join forces to participate in the procedure for selecting a strategic investor for the construction of Belene NPP," Rosatom said in a statement.

"Under the agreements, subject to the selection of Rosatom state corporation as the strategic investor of the project following the tender, General Electric will be considered as an equipment partner for a turbogenerator plant based on Arabelle technology and a machine room equipment, and Framatome SAS as a key partner in equipping an automated process control system (ACS) for the Bulgarian nuclear plant."

“The signed MOUs underline a continuing high level of trust between our companies,” said Komarov. “I am sure that international cooperation with the nuclear industry leaders will help to create the best financial and technical conditions for the implementation of the Belene NPP."

Rosatom has already collaborated with Framatome on international projects, including the Paks II nuclear power plant in Hungary and  Hanhikivi 1 in Finland. Rosatom also cooperates with General Electric at the Akkuyu nuclear power project in Turkey and the El Dabaa project in Egypt. AAEM, a joint venture between GE and Rosatom subsidiary Atomenergomash, is a supplier of equipment for the turbine island of each plant.

The agreement was also announced by Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov on his Facebook Page, while Bulgarian Minister of Energy Temenujka Petkova relayed the news to parliament.

“The combined efforts of these three world leaders in nuclear energy show that the procedure will be highly contested," she said. That we have come this far shows several things. First, the unification of these three world leaders in nuclear energy shows that they believe in this project and the possibility of its realisation is becoming more tangible. The fact of unification shows something else – that they believe in Bulgaria, they believe in the Bulgarian government, in the Bulgarian parliament.” She added that Borisov had played “a key role in achieving this unification”.

Framatome issued a press release on the agreement. “The Framatome team brings decades of global expertise in instrumentation and control (I&C) systems, as well as nuclear plant design, services, and component and fuel manufacturing,” said Lelièvre. “It is an honour to partner with Rosatom State Corporation to support the construction of the Belene NPP, an important project that will provide clean and reliable electricity.”

Earlier, Rosatom, Framatome and General Electric were shortlisted among five applicants for the 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 in northern Bulgaria includes construction of two 1000MWe units, each using the Russian VVER-1000/V-466 design which is a pressurised water reactor with four circulating loops. Preliminary site works began in 2008, and contracts for components including large forgings and I&C systems were signed with suppliers.

Initially, the plant was to be built by Atomstroyexport (part of Rosatom) after Russia won an international tender in 2006 for the design, construction and commissioning of the 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. As a result, if Bulgaria goes ahead with the project, Atomstroyexport will be the main contractor.