Bulgaria completes upgrade to extend life of Kozloduy nuclear reactor by 30 years

SOFIA, Oct 25 (Reuters) - Bulgaria’s energy ministry said on Tuesday an upgrade of one of the Soviet-era reactors at the country’s sole Kozloduy nuclear plant had been completed, extending its lifespan by 30 years.

The Kozloduy plant, by the river Danube on the border with Romania, has two 1,000 megawatt reactors that produce about 33 percent of Bulgaria’s electricity.

Bulgaria launched a 360 million euro ($391 million) upgrade of the reactors last year to ensure continuity of nuclear power, which is cheaper than some other energy sources.

Electricity prices are politically sensitive in Bulgaria as power bills eat into a huge part of monthly incomes, especially during winter months. Protests over high energy bills toppled the previous centre-right government of Prime Minister Boiko Borisov in 2013.

The current government hired a consortium led by Russia’s Rosatom units Rosenergoatom and Rusatom Service and France’s EDF last year to carry out the upgrades for the reactor, called Unit 5, to ensure it can operate safely for another three decades.

Rusatom Service is also upgrading the other reactor, Unit 6.

Unit 5’s operating licence is due to expire this month but the energy regulator is expected to renew it after the required security checks. Unit 6’s operating licence runs until October 2019.

$1 = 0.9201 euros Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Editing by Susan Fenton