Bulgaria moves closer to deal on selling Russian-made reactors to Ukraine

Bulgaria moves closer to deal on selling Russian-made reactors to Ukraine
Ukraine plans to expand the Khmelnytskyi NPP to compensate for the loss of the Zaporizhzhia NPP (pictured), occupied by Russia.
By bne IntelliNews March 24, 2024

Ukraine hopes to sign a deal to acquire two nuclear reactors from Bulgaria in June, Reuters reported on March 22, quoting the head of Ukrainian nuclear firm Energoatom, Petro Kotin.

The new reactors will be built at the Khmelnytskyi nuclear power plant in western Ukraine to compensate for the lost capacity of Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant that was occupied by Russia at the start of its invasion of Ukraine.

The reactors will be built with Russian-designed equipment that Kyiv wants to import from Bulgaria. Sofia has already agreed to the deal.

"Negotiations between the government of Ukraine and Bulgaria continue ... and I think that somewhere in June we will have the result of concluding contracts with Bulgaria for the purchase of this equipment," Kotin said in an interview for Reuters.

He added that if the first reactor, which would be ready for installation straight away, is delivered on time, Energoatom would be ready to begin work on the new reactor in two to three years. The second reactor will be installed later.

However, Kotin said there were issues over the price of the reactors. He said Bulgaria had previously put the price of the two reactors at $600mn but that Sofia is constantly trying to increase that price but that Kyiv will not agree to change the price.

Bulgaria originally bought two reactors from Russia to install in the Belene NPP project, which has now been abandoned, after repeated u-turns by successive Bulgarian governments. 

Plans to build Belene NPP date back to 2005 when the then government of Simeon Saxe Coburg-Gotha decided to build the new power plant as a substitute for four closed nuclear reactors at the Kozloduy NPP. 

In 2012, the first government under Gerb’s leader Boyko Borissov cancelled that decision. The move was a costly one as Bulgaria was ordered to reimburse over €600mn to Atomstroyexport (a unit of Russia’s Rosatom), which had won the contract to build the power plant and had already started work.

Borissov’s third government then decided to revive the plans for construction of Belene NPP in 2018 despite fierce opposition and assessments the power plant would cost too much, and the produced electricity would not be cheap.

Then in July 2023, the parliament approved a proposal by the government of Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov to sell the equipment acquired for the construction of Belene NPP to Ukraine.

Instead of the new power plant, Bulgaria is now planning to build new reactors at the existing Kozloduy NPP and signed an agreement with US Westinghouse Electric Company on the construction of an AP1000 reactor.