Russia seeks Bulgarian re-assurance on Belene nuke

zx500y290_804309Russian officials have once again asked Bulgaria to make a decision on the future of the planned nuclear plant at Belene, Bulgaria’s Economy and Energy Minister Traicho Traikov said on October 23, after returning from a one-day trip to Moscow.

“I told [Russian energy] minister [Sergei] Shmatko that for us that is an economic project first and foremost and that we can politically commit to it only once the economic issues are settled,” Traikov told Bulgarian National Television.

Bulgaria’s state-owned power grid operator NEK owns 51 per cent in the future plant, but the Government now wants to sell up to 30 per cent of the shares, while at the same time modifying the shareholder agreement so that it still retains a blocking stake even as a minority shareholder.

Traikov and Finance Minister Simeon Dyankov have said in the past that several investors have shown interest in acquiring a stake in Belene, including Russian companies. German utility RWE, which has agreed to pay more than 1.2 billion euro, rising to as high as two billion euro, for its 49 per cent stake in the project, has also been reported to be interested in selling part of its stake to other investors or even pull out altogether.

Traikov said that the shareholder structure was discussed in Moscow, including the option for Russian companies to fully-own the nuclear plant.

Bulgaria picked Russia’s Atomstroyexport to build the twin 1000MW reactors in a tender that critics say was rigged in favour of Russian companies by choosing the VVER technology. The construction contract, worth four billion euro, was signed in January 2008, but total costs are estimated to reach 10 billion euro.

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