Bulgaria to pursue exploratory talks on new Kozloduy nuclear reactor

Bulgaria’s Government decided on October 14 to allow exploratory talks “to investigate the possibility of building a new nuclear capacity” at the Kozloduy nuclear power plant on the Danube River, the Cabinet’s media office said.

The Cabinet decision mandated Energy Minister Temenouzhka Petkova to take the necessary action that would allow Bulgarian Energy Holding (BEH) to hold talks with US companies developing new nuclear technology for civilian use, the statement said.

BEH is the umbrella corporation for state-owned government companies in the energy sector, including Bulgaria’s sole nuclear power plant at Kozloduy.

The talks would concern building a new facility at the secondary site at Kozloduy, which received regulatory approval from Bulgaria’s nuclear watchdog in February 2020, following an environmental impact assessment.

Petkova is required to report on the outcome of the talks to the Cabinet by January 31 2021, according to the decision.

Speaking to reporters after the weekly Cabinet sitting, Petkova said that the process could include companies developing small modular reactors, but added that it was too early to discuss any details regarding the proposed facility, as the exploratory talks were meant to identify all available options.

Over the years, Bulgaria has sought repeatedly to expand Kozloduy’s nuclear capacity, alongside efforts to extend the life-cycle of the two 1000MW units currently in operation.

In August 2014, the socialist-backed Plamen Oresharski administration signed an agreement with Westinghouse to build a new 1000MW reactor at Kozloduy just days before leaving office. The total costs of the project were estimated at $7.7 billion.

That agreement was allowed to lapse in April 2015, during the second Boiko Borissov administration. Later, Borissov’s third government opted to resurrect plans to build a new nuclear power plant at Belene, which was shelved in 2012 by the first Borissov Cabinet.

That project is still ongoing, Petkova said on October 14, blaming the current delay in picking a strategic investor from its shortlist of five bidders on the Covid-19 pandemic, which has required a “full re-organisation” of the process.

(Bulgaria’s sole nuclear power plant at Kozloduy. Photo: uvioc/flickr.com)

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