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Sarkozy Offers Help for Bulgaria's Nuclear Plant Belene

Date: 13.10.2009

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has vowed cooperation for the construction of Bulgaria's planned second nuclear power plant on the Danube, which has hit funding problems.

This was announced by Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov after a meeting with the French president as he started a two-day working visit to France on October 12 2009.

"We are looking for European partners to make sure that the money that has been invested so far in the project does not go down the drain,” Borisov told journalists after the meeting.

In his words the French President has been impressed with the speed at which Bulgaria's nuclear sector is developing.

Sarkozy has reiterated the commitment of France's Prime Minister Francois Fillon to hold talks with French companies, potential investors in Bulgaria's planned second nuclear power plant in the town of Belene.

"Why do you say you are breaking up with Russia, if everything has been produced there?", Sarkozy asked Borisov, referring to the Russian participation in the project and the two Russian-designed 1000MWe units.

Bulgaria's new center-right government has launched a review of Belene, questioning the need for new power capacity in Bulgaria as well as costs which it said could reach EUR 10 B.

State power utility NEK, which has a majority stake in Belene, has contracted Russia's Atomstroiexport, along with France's Areva and Germany's Siemens to build the plant. German utility RWE has been picked for a 49% stake.

But neither the previous Socialist-led government nor RWE have secured financing for the project. The new Bulgarian cabinet has said it will consider cutting its 51% stake to around 20-30% ina bid to attract more investors and funding.

The French president has also pledged that his country will be the main driving force to secure additional compensations for the closed reactors at Bulgaria's Kozloduy nuclear power plant.

The aid would have to be approved by the EU's 27 governments and the European Parliament, which might not be easy considering constraints in the EU budget resulting from the economic crisis.

The meeting was attended by Bulgaria's Ambassador to France Irina Bokova, who was recently elected UNESCO Director General after defeating Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosny in a suspenseful and drawn-out race.

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