June 20, 2016 / 10:11 AM / 4 years ago

Bulgaria hopes to sell Russian nuclear project

* Talks with Russia’s Rosatom need to be pragmatic -PM

* Going forward with project would cause problems -PM

SOFIA, June 20 (Reuters) - Bulgaria hopes to reach an agreement with Russia’s Rosatom to allow it to sell a nuclear reactor project to a third party, after an arbitration court ruled that Bulgaria must pay for equipment it has ordered as part of the cancelled project.

A Geneva-based arbitration court ruled last week that Bulgarian state energy firm NEK must pay more than 550 million euros ($623 million) in compensation to a unit of Rosatom after it cancelled the 2,000 megawatt Belene project in 2012.

Prime Minister Boiko Borisov said it would be best to sell the ordered reactor and other nuclear equipment as installing it when Russia is under EU economic sanctions over its role in the crisis in Ukraine would be problematic for EU member Bulgaria.

Bulgaria cannot sell the equipment without permission of the Russian producer.

“If we find where to sell it, together with the Russian party, and recoup the funds we would pay, that would be the best solution,” Borisov told reporters.

“Every other option is way more complicated... To decide now to build a Russian reactor when Russia is under sanctions. You can imagine what access every engineer or mechanic who comes here would have and what additional problems Bulgaria would face,” Borisov said.

Bulgarian energy analysts have said that the reactor could be offered to Iran, Jordan or India. Borisov declined to comment on possible buyers, but said he can say more after a planned visit to Tehran next month.

Bulgaria signed a contract with Russia’s Atomstroyexport in 2006 to build two 1,000 megawatt reactors at Belene on the Danube River.

It abandoned the project six years later, after failing to attract Western investors for the 10 billion euro ($11 billion) project.

Sofia has also faced pressure to abandon the project from the European Commission which wants EU member states to reduce their dependence on Russian energy imports.

$1 = 0.8819 euros Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; editing by Jason Neely

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