China’s CNNC expresses interest in completing Belene nuclear project in Bulgaria

China’s CNNC expresses interest in completing Belene nuclear project in Bulgaria
By bne IntelliNews December 6, 2016

Representatives of the state-owned China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) have expressed interest in completing the project for building the Belene nuclear power plant in Bulgaria, a notice on the government’s website said on December 5. 

Russia’s Atomstroyexport won the contract to build the reactors back in 2006 but six years later the project was scrapped by the Bulgarian government. After an arbitration court in Geneva ruled that Bulgaria’s state-owned National Electricity Company (NEK) has to compensate Atomstroyexport for the equipment already produced, Sofia has been exploring its options including privatising the project. 

CNNC initiated a meeting at which the Bulgarian side was represented by outgoing Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, outgoing Deputy Prime Minister for EU Funds and Economic Policies Tomislav Donchev and outgoing Minister of Energy Temenuzhka Petkova.

During the meeting with CNNC, Borissov said that the Belene project could be implemented on a commercial basis, without state investment and without long-term electricity purchase contracts. The representatives of the Chinese corporation have confirmed that CNNC is ready to participate in the project under such conditions.

Previously, official interest in the Belene project was expressed by another Chinese company – China General Nuclear Corporation (CGN), Capital Daily commented. According to unofficial information, France’s EDF is also interested.

This month, Bulgaria’s state-owned National Electricity Company (NEK) is expected to make the final payment of about €600mn to Atomstroyexport for the equipment already produced for the Belene project which was planned to have two 1,000 MW reactors. The project was scrapped in March 2012 by the first government of the centre-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB).

After NEK makes the payment to Atomstroyexport, it will acquire the equipment. This will allow the separation of the assets in a project company and the launch of a privatisation procedure, the notice said.

CNNC’s activities include developing mines, designing, building and operating nuclear reactors and the storage of spent nuclear fuel. Currently, the corporation operates successfully 16 reactors in China and is building additional nine reactors. It is China’s sole producer of nuclear fuel.

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