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Belene Nuclear Power Plant Project

Belene Nuclear Power Plant Project
A view from the construction site of what was supposed to become the Belene NPP. Photo by BGNES

The Belene Nuclear Power Plant was an energy project for the construction of a 2000 MW NPP located in the Bulgarian town of Belene on the Danube. The Belene NPP was supposed to become Bulgaria's second NPP after the Kozloduy NPP, located in another Danube town, was built in the 1970s.

The Belene NPP was supposed to be a joint project between Bulgaria and Russia, more precisely Bulgaria's National Electric Company NEK and Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom and its subsidiary Atomstroyexport.

In late March 2012, the Bulgarian government of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and the center-right GERB party terminated the Belene NPP project.

The construction of the 2000 MW plant by Atomexportstroy had been delayed with annexes 15 times, after the contract was originally signed in 2006.

Russia's state-owned nuclear corporation Rosatom had made it clear it is ready to agree on yet another extension of the contract with the Bulgarian government for the construction of the Belene nuclear power plant.

The last active extension of the 2006 deal between Bulgaria's National Electric Company NEK and Rosatom's subsidiary Atomstroyexport was set to expire at the end of March 2012.

In October 2011, Bulgaria and Russia reached an agreement to extend the negotiations over Belene nuclear project by another six months as of the beginning of October amidst continuing haggling over its price and feasibility.

The greatest issue over which Bulgaria and Russia had been haggling for the past two years under the Borisov Cabinet was the price of the project, with Russia insisting it should be no less than EUR 6.3 B, while Bulgaria was demanding a price of no more than EUR 5 B.

After selecting the Russian company Atomstroyexport, a subsidiary of Rosatom, to build a two 1000-MW reactors at Belene and signing a deal for the construction, allegedly for the price of EUR 3.997 B, with the Russians during Putin's visit to Sofia in January 2008, in September 2008, former Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev gave a formal restart of the building of Belene. At the end of 2008, German energy giant RWE was selected as a strategic foreign investor for the plant.

The Belene NPP was de facto frozen in the fall of 2009 when the previously selected strategic investor, the German company RWE, which was supposed to provide EUR 2 B in exchange for a 49% stake, pulled out.

In November 2010, shortly after a visit to Sofia by Russian PM Putin, Bulgaria's National Electric Company NEK and Russian state company Rosatom signed a memorandum providing for a final fixed price for the two reactors of EUR 6.298 B.

According to the non-binding memorandum expiring on March 31, 2011, Bulgaria's NEK would have had a share of 51% in the Belene NPP, Rosatom – a share of 47%, Finnish company Fortum - a share of 1%, and French company Altran Technologies - a share of 1% with an option to increase it. Serbia had expressed interest in acquiring a share of 5%-10%.

In mid-March 2011, apparently acting on concerns caused by the situation in Japan's Fukushima NPP after the recent devastating earthquake there, the European Commission confirmed that it wanted to reexamine the Belene NPP project - once Bulgaria finds an investor for it - even though it already approved it back in 2007.