Bulgaria's PM: US Group Eyeing Belene Unknown to Me TooEnergy | September 30, 2012, Sunday // 16:12| views
Bulgaria is mulling talks with a US-registered consortium to resume the abandoned Belene nuclear power project as a private endeavor. Photo by EPA/BGNES
The US group, interested in building 2,000 MW nuclear plant in Bulgaria, has had no meeting with the country's prime minister, he has hinted.
"I meet with thousands of people and investors every day. I don't remember meeting representatives of Global Power Consortium," Boyko Borisov said on Sunday, taking up a journalist's question.
Earlier this week the recently registered consortium expressed interest in taking over the project to install two 1,000 megawatt nuclear reactors at the Danube River town of Belene and build it without state funds or guarantees.
The companies behind the consortium however are yet unknown.
Global Power Consortium representative turned up at Bulgaria's parliament on Wednesday, saying the tie-in wants to resume the abandoned Belene nuclear power project as a private endeavor. The visit was at the invitation of Energy Minister Delyan Dobrev.
Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Prime Minister Boyko Borisov stressed once again that he would consider the bid serious if the investors deposit 200 million euros in dollars, take up all liabilities of the nuclear plant and build it without state guarantees or long-term power purchase agreements.
Bulgaria's government is currently tangled up in a EUR 1 B dispute with Russia over the termination of the Belene project. It is unclear how the GPC offer to "build" the NPP will affect the dispute.
In the middle of July 2011, 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.
Three months later, on September 11, Rosatom Corp., Russia's state-run nuclear company, increased a claim against Bulgaria's National Electricity Co. from EUR 58 M to EUR 1 B.
Atomstroyexport, a unit of Rosatom, said it increased its claim filed with the International Court of Arbitration in Paris in 2011 to cover construction work and production costs of the two canceled nuclear reactors.
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.
Bulgaria selected the Russian company Atomstroyexport, a subsidiary of Rosatom, to build a two 1000-MW reactors at Belene and signed 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.
Shortly afterwards, in February 2010, BNP Paribas SA, France's largest bank by market value, which was hired by the previous Socialist government to help fund the construction of Belene, ditched the project.
RWE's departure from Bulgaria's new Belene Nuclear Plant put extra pressure on the new center-right government to find fresh shareholders while it redefines the scope of investment it needs.
NEK initially held a 51% stake in the scheme and Borisov's government planned to cut its shares in the project to 20-30%, which will still allow the country to keep its blocking quota.
Atomstroyexport was contracted in 2005 to build the plant for an initial 4 billion euros, but the costs later rose.
After failing to agree on its cost and find Western investors however in March 2012 Bulgaria decided to abandon plans to build its second nuclear power plant.
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