EU says favours new Bulgarian nuclear power plant

Friday, December 7, 2007

Fri Dec 7, 2007 2:13pm GMT

BRUSSELS, Dec 7 (Reuters) - The European Commission gave a green light o the construction of a new, 4-billion-euro ($5.82 billion) nuclear power plant in Bulgaria with capacity of 2,000 megawatts, it said on Friday.

"The Commission has decided today to give a favourable opinion to the initiative of Natsionalna Elektricheska Kompania (NETC) of Bulgaria to build a new nuclear power plant at the site of Belene," the EU executive said in a statement.

Under Europe's Euratom treaty, plans for investment in nuclear power must be sent to the Commission which then reports its views to the European Union country concerned.

"The Commission notes in particular that NEC addressed future costs for the decommissioning of the nuclear power plant in its financial provisions as well as segregated funds for the management of radioactive waste emanating from the nuclear plant's lifecycle," the statement said.

The new plant uses technology developed by Russia's Atomstroyexport, controlled by gas giant Gazprom, which will act as the main contractor with a consortium of France's Areva and Germany's Siemens.

Bulgaria welcomed the move, saying it would accelerate the Balkan country's largest infrastructure project since the fall of communism in 1989.

"The decision will help to move ahead with the project and choose a strategic investor for it as well as a bank to structure the financing for it," Bulgarian deputy Energy Minister Galina Tosheva told reporters.

Tosheva said the EU's nod allows the country to sign a final contract with Atomstroyexport by the end of the year and to choose a strategic investor by the end of February.

Italy's Enel, Germany's E.ON and RWE, Czech CEZ, and Belgium's Electrabel owned by French utility Suez filed their initial offers for a 49 percent stake in October.

The construction of two 1,000 megawatt reactors at the Danube River town of Belene is expected to start next year to allow the commissioning of the units in 2014 and 2015.

(Additional reporting by Tsvetelia Ilieva in Sofia)
(Reporting by William Schomberg; editing by Dale Hudson and James Jukwey)

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