Bulgarian PM supports reviving Belene nuclear power project with private investors

Bulgarian PM supports reviving Belene nuclear power project with private investors
By Dimitar Koychev in Sofia August 15, 2016

Prime Minister Boyko Borissov is exploring various options to revive the cancelled Belene nuclear power plant project, including working with private investors.

In June, an arbitration court in Geneva ruled that Bulgaria’s state-owned National Electricity Company (NEK) has to pay €550mn to Russia’s Atomstroyexport, a unit of Rosatom, for equipment already produced for the Belene project. On August 8, Borissov pointed out that this adds to other sunk costs of €708mn Bulgaria has paid since 2006.

In 2006, Atomstroyexport won a tender to complete the Belene power plant, located on the Danube River and planned to build two 1,000 MW reactors. However, in October 2009, Germany’s energy company RWE withdrew from the project, in which it was to participate with a 49% stake. RWE attributed its decision to difficulties resulting from the global financial and economic crisis, as well as failure to complete two stages: financial structuring and signing a contract for engineering, supply and construction works.

In March 2012, the first government of Borissov’s centre-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) scrapped the project mainly due to the excessive cost. The party has been back in power since November 2014, this time as part of a coalition government.

Following the Geneva court ruling, Borissov has broached various options for resurrecting the project. He has said that if the project is economically viable, it should be revived, Dnevnik daily reported on August 8. He proposed engaging the privatisation agency to sell the project to private investors who will complete it with the help of the state. According to the prime minister, there various options for the size of the state's stake.

Shortly after the July ruling, Bulgaria launched discussions with Iran about selling the produced equipment. However, in early August Borissov said that it would be almost impossible to sell the reactors.

At that time, the Bulgarian prime minister began to support openly the idea for reviving the project. On August 5, he had a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin. After the talk, Borissov said that he was “very optimistic” about major energy projects, Belene included.

The Kremlin press service said that the conversation was held on August 5 at the initiative of the Bulgarian side, and the emphasis was on the implementation of joint energy projects. The Russian president and the Bulgarian prime minister agreed “to step up interaction within the framework of the Russian-Bulgarian Intergovernmental Commission on Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation”, the press service said.