Belene contract 'opens new prospects' for Russia in Europe

18 January 2008

The signing of a Eur4 billion contract for two new nuclear power reactors was welcomed by vendor AtomStroyExport, (ASE) which said that its selection for the new plant would help its chances to win further contracts in Europe.

The plant, to be built at the existing but empty Belene site in northern Bulgaria, will boast a "unique combination of active and passive safety systems," ASE said. That company's AES-92 VVER-1000 reactors will be operated using control and automation systems from an Areva/Siemens consortium called Carsib, while 100 Russian firms will also contribute.

Two AES-92 model VVERs are under construction at Kudankulam in India, while two earlier AES-91 units began operation at Tianwan in China last year. ASE is also close to finishing the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran.

ASE reported that it had completed the conceptual design for the Belene units. It is now drafting the technical design and taking on the required staff. ASE will act as the main contractor, and the company's CEO, Sergey Shmatko, today signed the engineering procurement and construction contract with Lubomir Velkov and Mardik Papzyan of Nationalna Elektricheska Kompania (NEK). Also present wer
e Georgi Parvanov, President of Bulgaria and Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, who said that Belene would make Bulgaria one of the leading electricity exports in Europe.

NEK said the contract worth Eur4 billion ($5.8 billion). It did not elaborate on the process to pick major investors for up to 49% of the project from the shortlist of Belgium's Electrabel, CEZ of the Czech Republic, EOn and RWE of Germany, and Italy's Enel. The companies were told in December 2007 to improve their bids.

ASE were chosen by NEK in November 2006, while in December that year Bulgarian regulators approved the Belene site for new build. The project received approval from the European Commission in December 2007.

ASE said its success with the tender should "open up new prospects for Russian nuclear technology in Europe."