Boyko Borissov’s new ambition of building a second nuclear power plant near Belene is encountering obstacles. The prime minister announced the resumption of the project a month ago with the justification that Bulgaria cannot afford to write off €1.7 billion spent on the project so far. Krassen Nikolov has the story.
When Borissov returned to the project he had himself stopped, it was announced that the plant should be built as a private project, without state guarantees and without long-term contracts for the purchase of electricity. The project was used by the Bulgarian authorities in their attempt to restart the diplomatic ties with Russia, which suffered severely after the end of the South Stream gas pipeline project in 2014.
Bulgaria wants to have a stake in the nuclear plant in Belene corresponding to the money spent so far. The total value of the project is estimated at €10 billion and the cost of the produced electric power is estimated to be three times higher than that of the currently functioning Kozlodui nuclear power plant.
The problem is that potential investors are not yet willing to take the whole risk in Belene, as the Bulgarian government insists.
At the traditional Bulatom nuclear forum near Varna, the Russian company Rosatom announced that it is ready to start immediate negotiations with the Bulgarian state for the realization of the project and its possible financing. Vadim Titov, the company’s chief officer for Central and Eastern Europe, explained that one of the options is Russia to allocate funds under the Hungarian Paks NPP financial model, for up to 80% of the total cost. But the Bulgarian government previously announced that he does not want to take credit for Belene.
Titov reminded that a fully private nuclear power plant exists nowhere in the world, and that state involvement is needed.
“We have repeatedly confirmed in our talks at different levels that we are ready to work on the Belene NPP”, Titov said. He reminded that in the case of Turkey’s Akkuyu NPP, the central is wholly owned by Rosatom, but it has a long-term contract for purchase of electricity by the Turkish state. Such a scheme is also rejected by Bulgaria, for the time being.
Big interest in “Belene” has demonstrated the CNNC Chinese state-owned nuclear corporation. At the forum in Varna, the representative of the Chinese company Xie Jiajie announced that as early as February, CNNC has submitted to the government a preliminary offer for the development of the nuclear power plant. But the Chinese company also wants to get state guarantees.
“With the government, we need to have a profound discussion about how to develop the project and what guarantees the state can provide for it”, said Xie Jiajie. He added that one of the options for Belene NPP is China to take home the Russian reactors, and their place to install Chinese technology.
French Ambassador Eric Lebedel said in turn that the French nuclear companies “Framatom” and “Areva” also had an interest in resuming the project, as they participated in it from the outset. “Areva” and Germany’s “Siemens” were expected to supply a substantial part of the Belene NPP equipment. It is still unclear how the French imagine their participation in the project.
Against this background, the Energy Commission in the Bulgarian Parliament on Wednesday decided to transfer the entire responsibility for the resumption of the project to the government. The BSP faction is pushing the state to implement the nuclear power plant with its own resources, and not to seek a private investor.
“If the government is not certain that the Belene NPP will be profitable, why does it want 34% of it? These could be 34% of possible long-term losses. If the government is sure it will be profitable, why does not it want to build it on its own, so that the whole profit will be for the state? “, Daniel Similov, a political analyst, asked a rhetorical question.