Bulgaria’s Government approved on November 7 a draft framework for the selection process of a strategic investor for the Belene nuclear power plant, with Energy Minister Temenouzhka Petkova indicating the process could take 12 months in a best-case scenario.
The draft will now be presented to Parliament, which earlier this year gave the Cabinet a mandate to hold talks with potential investors, but stopped short of lifting the 2012 moratorium that halted all work and shelved the Belene project.
Petkova said that the process will start with a request for proposals. These will target a number of potential investors, beyond the three companies that have previously shown interest, she said.
Although she did not name the companies, she said that the interested parties were from China, Franch and South Korea. China National Nuclear Corporation is believed to be one interested party, with media reports also claiming that France’s Framatome was interested in a contractor role
An invitation would also be extended to Russia’s Rosatom, the parent company of Atomstroyexport, which was picked to build the two 1000MW reactors.
“We will also invite potential large-scale electricity consumers, who might show interest in joining the project, whether as minority shareholders or through electricity purchase contracts,” Petkova said after the Cabinet meeting, as quoted by Bulgarian National Radio.
Any offers would be evaluated by the Energy Ministry, which would be followed by direct talks with interested parties. If all stages listed in the draft are navigated successfully, a shareholder agreement could be signed within a year, allowing the new Belene project company to start seeking financing for construction, she said.
Bulgaria’s contribution will be to spin off all Belene assets from state-owned electric utility NEK – the site, where more than one billion euro was spent to prepare for construction, and equipment delivered by Atomstroyexport, which Bulgaria had to take after losing an arbitration suit in 2016.
In a statement, the Cabinet re-iterated that the Belene nuclear plant will have to be built without any state investment guarantees or long-term electricity purchase contracts, a condition that, some observers in Bulgaria noted, could prove a major stumbling block for the successful restart of the Belene nuclear plant.
Bulgaria froze the project in May 2012 over concerns about ballooning costs, with an HSBC report estimating total spending as likely to exceed 10 billion euro, and failure to sign a final contract with Atomstroyexport amid disputes over cost-escalation clauses.
(Belene nuclear plant site, screengrab from Bulgarian National Television)