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Energy minister says Bulgaria is looking into options to continue Belene nuclear project

October 31, 2016, 21:24 UTC+3 SOFIA

Bulgarian government plans an open procedure for privatization of the project, and two companies have already shown interest in the construction of the nuclear power plant

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SOFIA, October 31. /TASS/. Bulgaria is looking into two feasible options for continuing the project to build the Belene nuclear power plant, Bulgarian Energy Minister Temenuzhka Petkova told BTV television on Monday.

"At the moment, we are looking into all options for the development of Belene project. The first one is to accomplish Belene as a private project, without the participation and guarantees of the state," she said.

"The second one is to install one of the reactors built for Belene on Kozloduy nuclear power plant, and try to sell another one," the minister said.

Petkova said the Bulgarian government plans an open procedure for privatization of the project, and two companies have already shown interest in the construction of the nuclear power plant. "About 1.4 billion Lev (about 700 million euro) has been invested in Belene, it has all permissions for construction and a green light to the project can be given maximally quickly," she said.

"First - we will pay debts to Atomstroyexport (an engineering company of Russia’s state-run nuclear concern Rosatom) before December 15 and get the equipment. Then we will try to carry out the project as a private one. If this fails, we will take a different path," the minister said.

Kozloduy has all necessary infrastructure for installing the reactor built for Belene. "There are no technical problems for this. This was also confirmed by our colleagues from Rosatom," she added.

The final decision on the project will be made after the markets for produced electricity, construction costs and potential revenues from a new power plant are analyzed.

Belene project

In June 2016, the International Court of Arbitration under the International Chamber of Commerce in Geneva ruled to compensate Russia’s Atomstroyexport for its losses worth 620 million euros over the termination of the Belene project.

The court sustained Atomstroiexport’s claims for repayment for executed works and ordered equipment and for compensation for interest and court expenses, including Sidley Austin LLP lawyers. The court’s ruling is final.

The Bulgarian parliament approved a bill on financial aid to National Electricity Company (NEC) to pay off debts, but this decision must be also approved by the European Commission.

In 2006, NEC signed a contract with Atomstroyexport to build the Belene nuclear power plant with the capacity of 2 GW. In March 2012, Sofia abandoned plans to build the plant. Under the contract signed in 2006, Atomstroyexport was to build the power plant under a Russian project, and NEC was the customer.

Belene dispute settled

On October 26, the Bulgarian government approved an agreement on debt settlement on the Belene nuclear power plant project, which was signed by the National Electricity Company (NEC) and Atomstroyexport following the decision of the international arbitration court in Geneva. Atomstroyexport and persons connected with it waive all claims to the Bulgarian side which follow from the treaty on mutual protection of investment between Bulgaria and Russia over halt to Belena project, after the full debt is paid off, which at the moment makes up 601,613 million euro.

If the debt is fully paid off before December 15, Atomstoyexport won’t claim the interest on this debt that will amount to 23 mln euros by December 15.

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