Rosatom, Framatome and GE team up to bid for Bulgarian nuclear project

Russian energy company Rosatom has signed a memorandum of understanding with French nuclear firm Framatome and General Electric (GE) to participate jointly in a tender for the construction of Belene nuclear power plant in Bulgaria.

Construction of the nuclear plant at Belene first began in 1987 but was abandoned in 1990 when it was around 40 per cent complete. Since then, various Bulgarian governments have attempted to restart the project, with little success.

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The last attempt to revive the project was in 2012, in partnership with Russia’s Atomstroyexport but failed due to a lack of funding. Bulgaria was subsequently forced to pay Atomstroyexport 600 million euros in 2016, following international arbitration that ruled in the Russian company’s favour.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov has long been an advocate of the project, however, and revived it in 2018. A year later, the Bulgarian government selected several potential strategic partners including Rosatom, China National Nuclear Corporation, Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power, Framatome and GE.

Under the terms of the agreement signed this week, Rosatom, GE, and Framatome will work together if Rosatom wins the tender for the selection of a strategic investor for the project. Framatome will deliver the equipment for the power plant’s automated control systems while GE is expected to supply the turbine equipment.

Rosatom has already partnered successfully with the two companies on international projects such as Hungary’s Paks-2 nuclear plant and Hanhikivi in Finland.

Earlier this year, the Bulgarian ministry of energy said the preparations of binding offers to participate in the project would be delayed because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The state of emergency was lifted in May, allowing the tender to proceed.

Bulgaria plans to build the nuclear power plant on a market basis without signing any long term power purchasing agreements or providing state guarantees. The state will participate in the project through non-monetary contributions, including the manufactured nuclear reactors and other equipment.

The plant is located three kilometres from the town of Belene in the north of the country, close the Danube river and the Romanian border.

With the newest tender drawing potential strategic partners from around the world, it seems that the nuclear plant project 40 years in the making might finally come to fruition.

The Bulgarian government views Belene as a replacement for the four VVER-type reactors at the only other nuclear power plant in the country at Kozloduy, which were decommissioned as a prerequisite for the country joining the European Union. Kozloduy’s remaining two reactors currently generate around 16 per cent of Bulgaria’s electricity.

Construction of Belene is expected to cost around 10 billion euros, and take up to 10 years.

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