Bulgaria cancels Belene

By bne IntelliNews March 29, 2012

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Bulgaria has abandoned plans to build the Belene nuclear power station after weeks of cryptic remarks from Sophia and increasing impatience on the Russian side. Prime Minister Boyko Borisov confirmed the news to journalists on March 28

Bulgaria will pay €140m in order to acquire one of the reactors intended for the now abandoned plant, which is already under construction in Russia and due for completion in October, Novinite reports. The unit will now be installed at the country's sole existing nuclear facility, Kozloduy.

Meanwhile, Bulgaria's Economy and Energy Minister Delyan Dobrev is on his way to Moscow in an attempt to head off legal action from Russia's Atomstroyexport, which was contracted to build Belene.

Borisov discussed the scheme with the Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin on March 26, although no break through was reported. Bulgaria and Russia have been locked in a long-running dispute over rising costs for the project, and its future was thrown into sharper doubt when Germany's RWE pulled out of a partnership in 2009.

At the same time, encouraged by the EU, Sophia has been trying to pull away from its heavy dependence on Russia for its energy mix in recent months. In December it cancelled a planned oil pipeline JV, angering Moscow which complained of being messed around.

From the Russian side, Sergey Kirienko, head of Russian nuclear agency Rosatom - Atomstroyexport's parent - has said that the loss of the Belene contract will not lead to significant losses. "Given the total volume of orders of Rosatom, the suspension of one nuclear power plant project is an insignificant loss. However, quite some time and effort went into the Belene NPP. Naturally, it would be a pity if the project was not implemented," Kirienko said in an interview for the Tass news agency.

Bulgarian Deputy Economy and Energy Minister Valentin Nikolov says one option for the Belene site is to build a gas-fired power plant and Bulgaria is now looking for potential investors.

President Rosen Plevneliev has backed the government's decision to scrap the Belene project, saying Bulgaria's potential financial benefits from the plant were uncertain. On the other side, Bulgaria's far-right Ataka party has expressed its disappointment over the decision, calling it a "betrayal of Bulgaria's national interest."

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