Bulgaria to hold talks with U.S. companies over new nuclear reactor

SOFIA, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Bulgaria’s government gave state-owned energy firm Bulgarian Energy Holding (BEH) a green light on Wednesday to start talks with U.S. companies on plans to build a new nuclear reactor at its Kozloduy power plant, the energy minister said.

Temenuzka Petkova said the Balkan country is looking to build a new reactor to boost energy security and move towards less polluting methods of electricity production in line with the European Union’s goal of climate neutrality by 2050.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said the new reactor should be based on U.S. technology and allow diversification in nuclear energy.

“The government gave a mandate to BEH to start negotiations with U.S. companies that develop nuclear technologies, to study the options for the building of a new reactor at Kozloduy,” she told reporters.

Petkova did not name the companies that would be involved in talks, but said they were developers of nuclear technology, including those who work on small modular designs.

She said she would have until the end of January to present the results from the research, which will explore potential technology that could be used for the new unit at the Kozloduy plant and options for its construction.

Bulgaria operates two 1,000 megawatt Soviet-made nuclear reactors at Kozloduy, and is seeking investors for its planned 10 billion euro Belene project in the country’s north, which should run on two Russian nuclear reactors.

Petkova said the country was not cancelling the Belene project, adding that there is room for both projects as Bulgaria will have to start gradually phasing out its coal-fired thermal power plants after 2030. (Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Jan Harvey)