Bulgaria to Build a Second Nuclear Reactor

Views on BG | May 4, 2004, Tuesday // 00:00| Views: | Comments: 0
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By EU Business

Bulgaria announced Monday that it will build a second nuclear power plant to replace two Soviet-era reactors at its Kozloduy facility which the European Union wants shut down by 2006.

Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg said the second plant will be built at Belene, in the north of the country, where work began in 1987 but was suspended in 1991 after pressure from environmentalists.

"The government has decided to complete the construction of the power plant at Belene. It will be the biggest investment made in Bulgaria in the past 20 years," he told 1,000 residents gathered in Belene's central square.

Saxe-Coburg said the power plant here should be operational in 2010, four years after the planned closure of two 440 megawatt reactors at Kozloduy.

The new plant will "allow Bulgaria to retain its strong position on the region's energy market," the prime minister added.

The country in 2003 exported some five billion megawatt hours of electricity, mostly to Greece, Turkey, Serbia and Macedonia.

The Kozloduy plant in 2002 already shut down two older Soviet-era 440-megawatt reactors under pressure from the EU, which Bulgaria hopes to join in 2007.

The two reactors to be shut down were recently given a good bill of health by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, but Brussels stood firm that they should be closed for security reasons.

The Kozloduy plant, which is also situated in the north on the banks of the Danube, has two other more modern 1,000 megawatt reactors that do not raise any concerns.

The plant provides 47 percent of Bulgaria's electricity and there are fears that electricity prices will rise once its output is diminished.

The Bulgarian government spent 1.3 billion euros (1.8 billion dollars) at Belene, a town on the Danube near the border with Romania, before the project was abandoned two years after the fall of the Iron Curtain.

The foundations have already been built for a 1,000 megawatt reactor, which was to have been supplied by the then Czechoslovakia, along with two generators.

Energy Minister Milko Kovachev on Monday said the project was expected to cost another two billion euros by 2010.

The government will by July choose between eight proposals for the new plant tendered by five different foreign contractors.

They are the US company Westinghouse, France's Framatome, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL), the Czech Republic's Skoda and Russia's Atomstroyexport.

Atomstroyexport is party to three of the proposals, in consortium with some of the other companies.

Several independent economic analysts have expressed doubt about the wisdom of building a new nuclear power plant which they believe will only start making a profit in 20 years.

"We are investing huge amounts of money which could be better spent elsewhere," said Krassen Stanchev, a director at the Institute for Market Economy in Sofia.

The head of the project at Belene, Krassimir Nikolov, said last week that at this point the government favoured a high-water-pressure reactor for Belene because it was already using this technology at Kozloduy.

This would rule out the plan proposed by Canada's AECL which had input from Italy's Ansaldo Nucleare, US company Bechtel, fellow Canadian company SNC Lavalin and Japan's Hitachi.
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