Balkanleaks Release Classified Belene NPP Docs

Energy | January 13, 2013, Sunday // 12:27|  views

According to US journalist Andy Greenberg, Balkanleaks are WikiLeaks' most successful copycat. File photo

Bulgarian whistle-blowing site Balkanleaks has published the classified documents about the now-notorious project to build a second Nuclear Power Plant in the Danube town of Belene.

These confidential documents have leaked anonymously through Balkanleaks, which is modeled after the famous WikiLeaks, and have been revealed for the very first time.

They include the full reports of the HSBC consultant with their assessment of the feasibility and the profitability of the project, the amounts already paid on it, Addenum 12 to the Agreement between Bulgaria's National Electric Company, NEK, and Atomexportstroy from 2006, and related appendixes.

It emerged from the above documents that by December 31, 2011, the costs were listed at EUR 837 810 224 without Value Added Tax, VAT, from which EUR 678 089 125 without VAT have been paid.

According to a reference of Atomstroyexport, by December 31, 2011, NEK had not paid the invoiced and overdue amount of EUR 59 M while another EUR 37 M have been invoiced, but were not yet overdue. Invoices for an additional EUR 37 M have not been included in the agreement for differed payments.

The full documents in English and Bulgarian can be found on the Balkanleaks site at

Bulgaria's center-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria, GERB, government scrapped the Belene project in March 2012, declaring it economically unfeasible. The pro-Belene Bulgarian Socialist Party, BSP, then launched a petition for a referendum on the Russian-Bulgarian project. The referendum will take place on January 27, 2013.

Discussions renewed recently on the abandoned project, with Rosatom subsidiary Atomstroyexport upping its claim against Bulgaria's National Electricity Co. to EUR 1 B and a mysterious investment fund emerging with an offer to take over the project.

Rosatom recently said it was open for an out-of-court settlement of the arbitration suit.

In the middle of July 2012, 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.

After selecting the Russian company Atomstroyexport, a subsidiary of Rosatom, to build a two 1000-MW reactors at Belene and signing 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 BNP Paribas SA, France's largest bank by market value, who was hired by the previous Socialist government to help fund the construction of Belene, ditched the project in February 2010.

RWE's departure from Bulgaria's new Belene nuclear plant put extra pressure on the new center-right government to find new 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.

On January 27, 2013, Bulgarians will have to answer in the referendum the following question: "Should nuclear energy be developed in Bulgaria through the construction of new nuclear power units?"

Bulgaria's right-leaning Blue Coalition has challenged the legality of such a referendum.

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Tags: subcommittee, parliamentary, temporary, arbitration court, Arbitration, International Arbitration Court in Paris, ASE, Russia, Atomstroyexport, Rosatom, Nuclear Power Plant, NPP, GERB, BEH, NEK, HSBC, conslultant


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