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Bulgaria to expand economic cooperation with Russia

September 07, 2013, 21:40 UTC+3

The construction of the South Stream gas pipeline in Bulgaria will generate about 3.5 billion euros in direct investment for the national economy

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SOFIA, September 7 (Itar-Tass) - The Bulgarian government intends to step up economic cooperation with Russia, the ruling Socialist Party’s leader Sergei Stanishev said on Saturday, September 7.

The Plamen Oresharski government’s plans include “intensification of economic ties and projects between Bulgaria and Russia,” he said, adding that this would be done “not for servicing external interests but for developing Bulgaria as a modern, economically strong and technologically developed state.”

Stanishev stressed the importance of the South Stream project for his country. He believes that the project can “strengthen the positions of the country on the European map and attract multibillion investments into its economy.”

Another such project is the Belene nuclear power plant. “This project is not closed for us. I am confident that it can benefit Bulgaria economically,” Stanishev said.

In his opinion, the construction of the Belene nuclear power plant will open up new opportunities for technological development of Bulgaria.

The construction of the South Stream gas pipeline in Bulgaria will generate about 3.5 billion euros in direct investment for the national economy, Gazprom said in a statement after talks between the company’s CEO Alexei Miller, Bulgarian Prime Minister Plamen Oreshanski and Minister of Economy and Energy Dragomir Stoynev earlier this year.

Some 2,500 qualified specialists will be involved in the construction of the new gas transportation infrastructure in Bulgaria.

The Gazprom CEO stated that the South Stream project is proceeding as scheduled and the first gas supplies to the country by the pipeline would start in December 2015.

“South Stream is the biggest investment project in Europe and it is of tremendous importance for diversifying gas supplies,” Miller said, adding, “We discussed those steps and actions we should undertake in the near future. We also noted that the project is being implemented in compliance with the schedule. I have no doubt that Bulgaria will receive the first gas by the pipeline in December 2015.”

Stoynev reiterated that the South Stream gas pipeline project was of strategic importance for Bulgaria not only economically but also socially.

“Work to implement the South Stream project should be intensified,” Stoynev said, adding, “We are confident that the project is of strategic importance for Bulgaria both from the economic and social viewpoints.”

“The implementation of the project should reduce the unemployment rate in the country by employing Bulgarian specialists,” Stoynev said.

“We are interested in diversifying natural gas supply routes, that is, getting direct gas supplies from Russia,” the minister said.

In July 2010, Russia and Bulgaria signed a roadmap for drafting a feasibility study for the South Stream pipeline’s Bulgarian section.

On December 2, 2011, the Council of Ministers declared the South Stream pipeline in Bulgaria a facility of national importance.

On November 15, 2012, Gazprom and the Bulgarian Energy Holding EAD made the final investment decision on the construction the gas pipeline in Bulgaria.

The South Stream Offshore Pipeline will run through the Black Sea from Russia to Bulgaria and have a total length of 930 kilometres.

In late November 2010, Russia and Bulgaria signed a memorandum that laid out the principles of establishing a project company to build the Belene nuclear power plant.

Bulgaria started experiencing problems with the project after the outbreak of the global financial crisis. The situation deteriorated after the investor - Germany’s RWE concern that was bidding for 49 percent of the NPP shares -- had withdrawn from the project.

The Belene site was approved for the construction of a second Bulgarian NPP by a Council of Ministers decree on March 20, 1981. The site was handed to the Ministry of Economics on December 31, 1981.

The foundations of the future power plant were laid in 1987 according to the design of Atomenergoproekt Kiev from the USSR and Energoproekt Sofia. The design suggested the construction of four VVER-1000/V 320 reactors. Between 1988 and 1990 40 percent of the construction work of reactor 1 was finished and 80 percent of the equipment was supplied. The project was abandoned in 1990 due to the democratic changes in Bulgaria. In 2002, the government decided to restart the Belene project. The tender for the construction of the nuclear power plant was announced in 2005 and was won by Russian Atomstroyexport. The National Electric Company launched a procedure for selection of a contractor for the engineering, procurement, and commissioning of Belene Nuclear Power Plant, Units 1 and 2.

Bulgaria withdrew from the project in March 2012.

Russia’s Rosatom Head Sergei Kiriyenko said late last year that “2012 is the first year when the Fukushima shock was gone” and “we can speak of more balanced assessments of the future of nuclear power.”

“Less balanced assessments” made by experts after the Fukushima incident on March 11, 2011 suggested that the number of new power units to be commissioned by 2030-2035 would decreased by 50 percent.

However, now experts appear to be more optimistic. The International Atomic Energy Agency projects 300-340 GW of new capacities to be put into operation by 2035, which is only 10-12 percent less than was expected before Fukushima. In reality this means that about 400 new power units will be built around the world in the years to come, Kiriyenko said.

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