Bulgaria Govt Steers Clear of Russia's Lawsuit over Belene

Business » ENERGY | July 26, 2011, Tuesday // 18:17| Views: | Comments: 0
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Bulgaria: Bulgaria Govt Steers Clear of Russia's Lawsuit over Belene A file picture dated September, 2008, showing workers during the construction of the first 1 000 MW unit of the second nuclear plant of Belene, Bulgaria. Photo by EPA/BGNES

Bulgaria's government will not meddle with attempts to settle the troubled ties between the state utility NEK and Russia's state nuclear company, the economy minister has said.

"The National Electricity Transmission Company (NEK) will respond to the claim by Atomstroyexport to the best of its interests," Economy and Energy Minister Traicho Traikov told reporters on Tuesday.

Minister Traikov spoke on the sidelines of the second annual meeting of trade representatives of his department with the local business.

At the end of last week Russia's state nuclear company Atomstroyexport took Bulgaria's NEK to an arbitration court for EUR 58 M over delayed payments for its work on two nuclear reactors.

The next day the Bulgarian company said it is ready to strike back with a EUR 61 M counter claim against Atomstroyexport over delayed payments for purchases of old equipment for the plant, worth about EUR 300 M.

Russian media has commented that in case of failure of the project, trials may continue for several years and claims could tower to EUR 1 B.

According to Traikov these are relations between two companies and the state will not interfere.

In the middle of June Bulgaria said that Belene nuclear project will be frozen for another three months as of July to have time to catch up with the back office work and get more information about the cost of the project.

Bulgaria and Russia have been unable to agree on the major bone of contention - the price for the construction of the 2000-MW Belene NPP.

Russia says the project construction price should be EUR 6.3 B. The Borisov government wants to set the price at as little as EUR 5 B.

After it was first started in the 1980s, the construction of Bulgaria's second nuclear power plant at Belene on the Danube was stopped in the early 1990s over lack of money and environmental protests.

After selecting the Russian company Atomstroyexport, a subsidiary of Rosatom, to build a two 1000-MW reactors at Belene and signing a deal for the construction, allegedly for the price of EUR 3.997 B, with the Russians during Putin's visit to Sofia in January 2008, in September 2008, former Prime Minister Stanishev gave a formal restart of the building of Belene. At the end of 2008, German energy giant RWE was selected as a strategic foreign investor for the plant.

The Belene NPP has been de facto frozen since the fall of 2009 when the previously selected strategic investor, the German company RWE, which was supposed to provide EUR 2 B in exchange for a 49% stake, pulled out.

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