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Bulgarian PM Exposes Predecessor as 'Liar' over Belene NPP Project

Business » ENERGY | January 23, 2013, Wednesday // 15:50| Views: 834 | Comments: 0
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Bulgaria: Bulgarian PM Exposes Predecessor as 'Liar' over Belene NPP Project Bulgarian PM Borisov keeps "exposing" his predecessor Stanishev as "liar" over the Belene NPP plant. Photo by BGNES

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov has leaked a record of the meeting of the Cabinet of his predecessor Sergey Stanishev, which Borisov says exposes the former as a lier regarding the controversial project for the construction of the Belene nuclear power plant.

The released record is from the weekly sitting of the Stanishev Cabinet on October 23, 2008, in which ex PM Stanishev and then Economy Minister Petar Dimitrov were discussing the Belene NPP – a project from the 1980s revived by the government of the so called three-way coalition (2005-2009).

According to Borisov, Stanishev and Dimitrov were discussing a postponement of a Cabinet meeting on Belene, which gave Sergey Kirienko, head of the Russian state nuclear energy corporation the right to state that if the Belene NPP project got delayed, it would have been Bulgaria's fault.

The record is further said to reveal that Dimitrov mentioned the absence of Stanishev and then Finance Minister Plamen Oresharski which led the government to fail to vote on providing BGN 300 M in bonds from the state-owned Bulgarian Energy Holding as a guarantee for the Belene NPP project.

Another problem mentioned in the released conversation between Stanishev and Dimitrov touches on how the Cabinet was going to present the BGN 300 M in question as state spending to EU statistical office Eurostat which collects state budget and deficit statistics.

"This means that they are literate. They are now pretending to be illiterate. Back then they knew what they were causing to the budget and the deficit, and [what reaction they would cause] on part of the financial institutions reading about unregulated payments of such large sums," Borisov commented at the government meeting on Wednesday, as cited by Focus news agency.

He further noted that when data about the Belene NPP is provided to Eurostat, then there would have to be additional arguments on economic feasibility of the project.

"You know that as of now they (i.e. Eurostat) don't know about it," Borisov said referring again to the collecting of state budget statistical information.

He reminded that earlier on Wednesday his predecessor Sergey Stanishev stated that no money from the state budget was ever spent on the Belene NPP project.

"One could lie but this is just way too much," Borisov is quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, Dian Chervenkondev, a MP from the ruling center-right party GERB, presented an Interim Report of a special parliamentary committee probing state spending on the Belene NPP project between 2002 and March 2012, when it was terminated by the Borisov Cabinet. The report indicates several hundred BGN worth of state spending on the NPP in the small Danube town.

The GERB MP reiterated claims of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov that the construction of the Belene plant would ruin Bulgaria financially.

He further said he believed the "ugly truth" from reports of consultant HSBC and alleged papers of German energy giant RWE, which quit the Belene project in 2009, that the price for the construction of the NPP would be over EUR 10 B, and that Bulgaria's National Electric Company NEK was supposed to pay its share of EUR 5.4 B to secure a 51% state stake in it.

"[Bulgaria's ex PM] Stanishev as one of the initiators of the upcoming referendum on nuclear energy keeps saying, "Not a single BGN has been paid from the state budget for the Belene NPP. Thus, he has lied on the 770 000 people who signed the petition for a referendum on nuclear energy. The government has paid BGN 300 M from the state budget for NPP equipment," Chervenkondev said, addressing Stanishev, "If you have any political dignity, you need to stand up and say, "We are sorry, we lied to you!"

He added that the Bulgarian state keeps paying off a credit to BNP Paribas, and that a total of EUR 109 M were paid for the clearing of the Belene NPP construction site.

Stanishev, whose government of the so called three-way coalition (2005-2009) signed the contract for the construction of the Belene NPP back in 2006 for a price of EUR 4 B with Russian state corporation Rosatom and its subsidiary Atomstroyexport, stated Wednesday the original agreement provided for a price adjustment according to inflation.

Bulgaria and Russia have been haggling over the price in question for the past five years, among other issues surround the construction of what was supposed to become Bulgaria's second NPP, with an initial capacity of 2000 MW.

Rosatom has insisted on a price of EUR 6.3 B, while Bulgaria's Borisov Cabinet demanded EUR 5 B at first. Subsequently, however, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov announced that the cost of the Belene project could run up to EUR 10 B, and that the project is prohibitively costly and economically unfeasible for Bulgaria. Its abandonment in March 2012, led Russia's Rosatom to file a suit with an international arbitration court in Paris.

The Interim Report of the parliamentary committee probing the Belene NPP projects comes after on Monday the Bulgarian government revealed secret documents from the Economy Ministry demonstrating why German energy company RWE quit Bulgaria's nuclear project in 2009.

Borisov said German utility RWE abandoned plans to participate in the construction of a 2000MW nuclear plant in the Bulgarian Danube town of Belene after realizing that its price tag has towered to EUR 10 B.

The proposed price for the construction of two 1000 MW units of what was supposed to become Bulgaria's second nuclear power plant, Belene, was EUR 6.3 B, not EUR 10 B, as Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov claims, Russian state company Rosatom stated on Tuesday.

According to Rosatom spokesperson Sergey Novikov, Bulgarian PM Boyko Borisov's statements that the planned price for the construction of the Belene nuclear plant was EUR 10 B are extremely perplexing.

On Monday, Borisov said German utility RWE abandoned plans to participate in the construction of a 2000MW nuclear plant in the Bulgarian Danube town of Belene after realizing that its price tag has towered to EUR 10 B.

This allegedly emerged from a letter by the major German company to Bulgaria's state energy holding company NEK, dated 2008, which Prime Minister Boyko Borisov made public on Monday.

The letter was discovered by accident by Economy and Energy Minister Delyan Dobrev, tucked in a box, holding strictly confidential information, where the previous government hoped it will remain unseen, Borisov said.

In the letter RWE draws attention to the fact that NEK still has not made clear how it ill finance its share of the project worth EUR 5 B. The German company voices strong protest against plans for signing the fifth agreement with Russia for the project and commits to contribute up to EUR 10 M in it in 2009.

The previous Socialist-led government chose in 2009 German power utility RWE to become a strategic partner in the Belene project with a stake of 49%.

The next year however the German utility abandoned plans to participate in the construction of a 2000MW nuclear plant in Belene "due to funding problems".

Speaking on Monday, Prime Minister Borisov slammed the previous government for hiring BNP Paribas SA, France's largest bank by market value, to arrange a EUR 250 M loan to help fund construction of the nuclear power plant, whose price tag has towered from EUR 4 B to EUR 10 B.

NEK's poor results, triggered by a fall in power consumption, however forced it to breach the conditions on the loan, making it callable.

BNP Paribas SA, France's largest bank by market value, ditched the project in February 2010.

The latest statements on the Belene NPP project come days before Bulgarians head for the voting polls to cast a ballot in the country's national referendum on development of atomic energy.

The voters will receive a white ballot with the question "Should atomic energy be developed in Bulgaria through the building of a new Atomic Plant?" There will be an option to choose "yes" or "no" by using a blue ink pen.

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Tags: Belene, RWE, Atomstroyexport, BSP, government, BNPP, Bulgarian Energy Holding, NEK, Belene NPP, Atomstroyexport, Rosatom, Russia, Sergey Novikov, Sergey Stanishev, BSP, Bulgarian Socialist Party, EC, European Commission, Prime Minister
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