German utility RWE has notified state-owned Bulgarian Energy Holding (BEH) of its intention to withdraw from the Belene project, according to press reports. BEH executive director Galina Tosheva made the annoucement at a news conference, today, 28 October.

RWE has decided to abandon the project due to the economic and financial downturn and because the project had failed to achieve two of its primary goals: signing a contract with the company building it and agreeing on a financial framework, Reuters reported

RWE was picked to become a strategic partner in construction of the two unit nuclear power plant at Belene in October 2008, after beating Electrabel of Belgium. RWE agreed to form a joint project company, Belene Power Company (BPC), with state utility Natsionalna Elektricheska Kompania (NEK) to carry out project development, including financing, construction and management of the plant. BPC will be 51% owned by NEK, with RWE holding the remaining 49%.

There has been speculation about RWE’s withdrawal from the Belene project for a number of months, but in September meeting RWE chief executive officer Juergen Grossman reportedly assured the Bulgarian prime minister his firm was still interested in the project.

Bulgaria picked Russia’s Atomstroyexport to build twin VVER reactors following a 2007 tender. A EUR4 billion turn-key contract was signed in January 2008. Just yesterday Russian companies JSC Power Machines and JSC Atomenergoprom announced that they had signed contracts to supply major power generating equipment, including two steam turbine sets, two sets of turbo generators and related systems.

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