Europe approves of Belene plan

10 December 2007

The European Commission has issued a 'favourable opinion' of financial arrangements to build two new nuclear reactors at Belene, in Bulgaria. The country's National Electricity Company (NEK) may now finalise arrangements for the project, which could start construction next year.

EC a
pproval of any nuclear project in the EU is required under the Euratom Treaty, and would be one requirement for a possible loan under Euratom. The EC said any application for such a loan would be evaluated according to its own merits.

Extensive discussions took place between NEK and the EC concerning the investment of about Eur4 billion ($5.9 billion). The money would be spent with Russia's AtomStroyExport (ASE), which would employ France's Areva and Germany's Siemens as main subcontractors. The result would be two VVER-1000 design nuclear units with AES-92 reactors featuring Areva and Siemens electronics. Each reactor would generate 1049 MWe gross and supply 1000 MWe to the grid after powering its own systems.

The units could begin operation in 2012-3, after the start of construction next year. NEK would make 51% of the investment and is currently selecting a major investor from a shortlist of
Belgium's Electrabel, CEZ of the Czech Republic, EOn and RWE of Germany, and Italy's Enel.

The reactor units would be similar to those recently completed by ASE at Tianwan in China. The EC said it had noted that the design "includes various passive safety systems as well as improved protection against external hazards such as earthquakes and air crashes." The design boasts a secondary containment and four trains of safety systems.

The EC was also pleased by NEK's accounting for waste management and eventual decommissioning costs, although it pointed to Bulgaria's need to develop plans for the long-term management of high-level radioactive waste.

Construction began on four reactors at Belene under plans drawn up by Bulgaria's communist government and the Soviet Union. Work on site began in 1987 but ceased in 1991, leaving some infrastructure available for reuse. Impetus to restart the project came when Bulgaria had to shut down two reactors at its Kozluduy plant in order to join the EU this year. The cost of the early shutdowns has been estimated at Eur3 billion ($4.4 billion), partly due to the lack of a surplus of electricity for export to countries such as Greece, Turkey, Serbia and Macedonia.

Further information

National Electricity Company (NEK)

WNA's Nuclear Power in Bulgaria information paper

WNN: Five bids to participate in Belene
Belene project seeks investors
Russian firm to complete Bulgarian plant