SOFIA, Oct 26 (Reuters) - Bulgaria may launch a tender to choose a strategic investor for its Belene nuclear power project by the end of the year if the parliament gives its approval to the plan, Energy Minister Temenuzhka Petkova said on Friday.
The Balkan country lifted a six-year ban on a 2,000 megawatt (MW) plant at Belene in June and asked the energy minister to come up by the end of October with a procedure to choose a strategic investor for the project estimated to cost at least 10 billion euros ($11.3 billion).
Bulgaria has paid more than 620 million euros to Russia’s state nuclear giant Rosatom for scrapping the project but also received nuclear equipment for two 1,000 MW reactors and has to decide what to do with it.
The government has said it does not want to commit more public funds, extend state or corporate guarantees for any loan, or offer preferential power purchase prices for Belene.
“The procedure is in its final stages. If the parliament approves it, the choice of a strategic investor can start by the end of the year,” the energy ministry quoted Petkova as saying at a meeting with Rosatom’s chief executive Alexey Likhachev in Moscow.
Likhachev has said his company would assess seriously any option to participate in the project, the ministry said.
Chinese state nuclear company CNNC is also interested in the project. Bulgaria has invited France’s Framatome, a unit of state controlled utility EDF, to take part.
The Balkan country cancelled the project on the Danube River in 2012, after failing to find investors and facing pressure from Washington and Brussels to limit its energy dependence on Russia, which was under contract to build the nuclear plant.
Critics of the project, first launched in 1981, argue the investment does not justify the benefits and that the project has been a source of corrupt practices for decades.
$1 = 0.8815 euros Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Mark Potter