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Bulgaria to start building Belene nuke in 2009

Date: 13.12.2007

Bulgaria will be able to start construction works on the planned Belene nuclear power plant no sooner than 2009, the head of the country's nuclear regulator said.

The regulator is yet to rule on the technical details of the project and the proposed safety measures, said Sergey Tsochev, who chairs Bulgaria's Nuclear Regulation Agency.

The European Commission said it cleared Bulgaria's plans to build the plant at Belene on the Danube, using Russian reactors, but that is far from the final approval needed for it to go ahead, Tsochev added.

He is confident the project will not make Bulgaria dependent on Russian energy sources, even though a Russian company, Atomstroyexport, was picked to build the two 1000 MW third-generation reactors.

The Commission also stressed the need for diversified supply sources and plans for the long-term management of radioactive waste.

Bulgaria plans to retain control with 51% held by power grid operator NEK and the rest sold to a strategic investor, with Czech CEZ, German E.ON and RWE, Belgian Electrabel and Italy's Enel all vying for it.

With the European Commission giving its approval, Bulgaria can now apply for a government-underwritten EUR 300 M loan from the EU's Euratom agency.

The country also plans to borrow a similar amount from the European Investment Bank (EIB), while government officials have earlier claimed that they have already secured EUR 250 M in funding for the plant from BNP Paribas.

The total costs of the project are estimated at EUR 4 B.

Bulgaria decided to unfreeze its plans to build the plant in 2004,mothballed them a decade and a half earlier, to compensate for shutting down four older Soviet reactors at its Kozloduy facility at the request of the EU, which the country joined in January.

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