Russian firm to complete Bulgarian plant

11 January 2007

Atomstroyexport has been chosen to supply two reactors at Bulgaria's Belene site. Supplying about 1000 MWe each, they are scheduled to deliver power in 2011 and 2013 and will fill a gap in energy supply left by the early closure of older reactors.

Two AES-92 model VVER units with V466 pressurised water reactors will be designed, constructed and commissioned by the Russian firm following the acceptance of its bid by directors of the National Electricity Company, NEK, on 30 October. The units will be similar to those being built by Atomstroyexport at Tianwan in China.

France's Areva NP will supply instrumentation and control equipment to the new units and Bulgarian companies will be involved in the construction. An Atomstroyexport spokesman said he hoped to attract Germany's Siemens to participate.

An unsuccessful bid was tabled by an alliance led by Skoda. That would have seen upgraded V-320 VVER units similar to those built by the company at Temelin in the Czech Republic. Westinghouse would have provided instrumentation and control had that bid been accepted.

The value of the award, which must still be signed by NEK and Atomstroyexport, was not revealed, but would reportedly be in the range of Eur2-4 billion. NEK listed the following factors as influential in its choice:
  • Significant safety margins such as a secondary containment, four-train safety channels and extended passive safety
  • A lower risk of unforeseen extension of the construction schedule, of licensing complications, or of an early need for safety-related improvements
  • The use of the newest technologies and a longer operational lifetime (60 years)
  • The third-generation VVER reactor being best recognized in the European Union
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. Some options tabled by Atomstroyexport would reuse existing equipment and buildings from the earlier project.

The decision to build new nuclear power plants comes after Bulgaria agreed to shut down reactors at its Kozloduy plant in order to join the European Union in 2007. The units are not considered safe enough by the bloc and units 3 and 4 at that plant will close on 31 December 2006, following units 1 and 2 which closed at the end of 2002. The cost of the early shutdowns has been estimated at Eur3 billion, partly due to the lack of a surplus of electricity for export to countries such as Greece, Turkey, Serbia and Macedonia.

There are no plans to shut down the two newest Kozloduy units, 5 and 6, which provide about a quarter of Bulgaria's electricity.

Further information

National Electricity Company, NEK