Bulgaria shortlists five companies in Belene nuclear station tender

Bulgaria’s Energy Minister Temenouzhka Petkova said on December 19 that five companies have been shortlisted in the tender to pick a strategic investor for the restart of the Belene nuclear power plant.

Three companies are in the running as potential strategic investors – Russia’s nuclear corporation Rosatom, China National Nuclear Corporation and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, Petkova said during a hearing held by Bulgarian Parliament’s energy committee.

Talks with France’s Framatome and General Electric will focus on their stated interest to supply equipment and participate in securing the funding for the project, she said.

Petkova said that the shortlisted companies will be invited, by end-January 2020, to submit their binding offers. She said that it was possible for the five companies to hold talks and submit joint offers.

Bulgaria froze the Belene project in May 2012 over concerns about ballooning costs, with an HSBC report estimating total spending as likely to exceed 10 billion euro, after failing to sign a final contract with Rosatom subsidiary Atomstroyexport amid disputes over cost-escalation clauses.

State-owned electric utility NEK was left holding a number of assets, including the site, where more than one billion euro was spent to prepare for construction, and equipment delivered by Atomstroyexport, picked to build the two 1000MW reactors, which Bulgaria had to take at a cost of more than 600 million euro after losing an arbitration suit in 2016.

These assets will be spun off into a separate company that the strategic investors will buy into. In exchange for the assets, NEK plans to keep a minority stake large enough to block shareholder decisions on “certain issues”, according to the ministry’s current plans.

Those plans are also predicated on Bulgaria’s key condition for restarting the project, namely that it must be carried out on a “market principle”, that is to say without any state investment guarantees or long-term electricity purchase contracts.

(Belene nuclear plant site, screengrab from Bulgarian National Television)



The Sofia Globe staff

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