December 7, 2018 / 11:41 AM / 4 days ago

Bulgaria hopes to pick investor for nuclear plant by end of 2019

SOFIA, Dec 7 (Reuters) - Bulgaria plans to open a tender to pick a strategic investor for its revived Belene nuclear power project on the Danube next month and to pick a winner by the end of 2019, Energy Minister Temenuzhka Petkova said on Friday.

China’s state-owned CNNC, France’s Framatome - a unit of EDF - and state-run Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co (KHNP) have expressed interest in the project to build two 1,000 megawatt nuclear reactors at Belene.

Last month Petkova said an invitation to become a strategic investor would also be extended to Russia’s Rosatom.

Sofia cancelled the Belene project in 2012 after failing to find investors and facing pressure from the United States and the European Union to limit its energy dependence on Russia, which had been under contract to build the plant.

In June, parliament ordered the government to revive the project.

Bulgaria plans to keep a blocking stake in the venture, Petkova said. The government would prefer an investor who plans to build the plant within eight years for about 9 billion euros ($10.23 billion), she added.

“We have a site on which the necessary infrastructure is in place and we believe the conditions exist for this project to be completed in a shorter term than 10 years,” Petkova told a parliamentary hearing.

Bulgaria has been sitting on unused nuclear equipment since paying Rosatom more than 620 million euros ($712 million) for scrapping the project six years ago.

Petkova has said Bulgaria will not commit more public funds to Belene, or extend state or corporate guarantees or offer investors power supply contracts at preferential rates.

Critics of the Belene project, first launched in 1981, say it has been a vehicle for corruption for decades and that the investment does not justify the benefits. ($1 = 0.8795 euros) (Reporting by Angel Krasimirov and Tsvetelia Tsolova Editing by Gareth Jones)

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