Mandate for Belene NPP Talks Alive in Bulgarian Parliament

Energy | October 2, 2012, Tuesday // 14:02|  views

The Speaker of the Bulgarian Parliament, Tsetska Tsacheva, confirmed Tuesday that plans to resuscitate the Belene NPP will be on hold until the results of the referendum on it become known. Photo by BGNES

The decision of the ruling GERB to give a mandate to the Cabinet to hold negotiations with a private investor for the project to build a second NPP in Bulgaria has not been withdrawn from the Parliament.

The information was reported Tuesday for the Bulgarian National Radio, BNR, by the Speaker of the Parliament, Tsetska Tsacheva.

On Monday, the parliamentary group of the Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria party, GERB, declared they will withdraw the earlier decision for the mandate to launch talks to build a Nuclear Power Plant in Bulgaria's Danube town of Belene.

The freeze of the above plan will last until the results of an upcoming referendum, initiated by the opposition Socialists, which was confirmed by Tsacheva, saying there are 500 000 valid signatures for it.

GERB are yet to announce the exact date for debates for the referendum, but Prime Minister, Boyko Borisov, declared he would want a speedy procedure.

The largely unknown US enterprise Global Power Consortium's interest in the construction of the 2000 MW Belene was made public in Sofia last Wednesday by a representative of the entity, Samuel Reddy, who said he had presented an offer to Bulgarian Minister of Economy, Energy, and Tourism Delyan Dobrev.

According to Samuel Reddy, the alleged Global Power Consortium is currently negotiating with Russian state company Atomstroyexport, which was supposed to build the NPP in Belene.

Immediately after Reddy's announcement on Wednesday, Rosatom's subsidiary Atomstroyexport denied being in talks with it for taking over the abandoned project for Bulgaria's Belene NPP.

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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Tags: Samuel Reddy, Global Power Consortium, GPC, Belene, NPP, NPP, Nuclear Power Plant, Rosatom, Atomstroyexport, Russia, Delyan Dobrev, Economy Minister, ASE, Rosatom, Quantum Group, BSP, Bulgarian Socialist Party, Global Power Consortium, Referendum, Belene NPP, Boyko Borisov, Bulgarian Prime Minister, mandate, Tsetska Tsacheva, parliament, Speaker, GERB, NEK


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