A contract has been placed for the reactor vessels and steam generators of the forthcoming Belene plant, despite political uncertainty and the lack of secured finance.
OMZ's Izhora operation is to make the two pressure vessels, the reactor internals and major pipes under one contract worth $114 million. The two sets of four steam generator shells, including brackets, trunions and collectors, come under another contract worth €90 million. All the kit is to be shipped between 2010 and 2012.
With two new VVER-1000 pressurized water reactors, the new nuclear power plant beginning construction at Belene in Bulgaria will more than replace the two Kozloduy reactors shut down on entry to the European Union. The site in the north of the country was planned for nuclear development twenty years ago but work stopped with the end of the Soviet Union.
Russia's AtomStroyExport will be in charge of the construction and it seems likely that Russia will also be supplying finance for the project in the form of a $5 billion loan. Another option could come under the Euratom Treaty, given that the project has gained approval from the European Commission.
A 51% majority of the project is held by the Bulgarian state enterprise NEK, which is using BNP Paribas to find finance for its share of costs. The remainder is held by German utility RWE, which is thought to be unwilling to invest too heavily until NEK's side of the finances is settled. RWE was expected to find partners of its own to split the stake but none have been announced so far.
No matter what the certainty on finance may be, another major factor in the viability of the Belene project will be the fortunes of political parties critical of the plan in the Bulgarian national election of 5 July.