July 15, 2008

Atomstroyexport Allowed to Build Belene Npp in Bulgaria

MOSCOW. July 15 (Interfax) - The Bulgarian Regional Development and Public Works Ministry has considered a draft project for the construction of the Belene Nuclear Power Plant by Russia's Atomstroyexport and authorized the National Electric Company to build the plant, the company said.

Protocol No. 1, under which the National Electric Company officially grants Atomstroyexport permission to build the plant, was signed on July 10. Now, "the opportunity for the start of a new cycle of work at the plant" has been opened, the company said.

The construction of the Belene NPP envisions the installation of two power units with more than one gigawatt each. The cost of the project is about 4 billion euros. Atomstroyexport will build the power plant in a consortium with France's Areva NP and Germany's Siemens. The power units are to be opened in 2013-2014.

The financing of the project is currently coming from a loan issued by BNP Paribas to the contractor. BNP Paribas is handling the structuring of the financial aspect of the project, which envisions a strategic investor being brought in. National Electric Company will sell a stake of up to 49% in the plant's capital to the investor. A special company Belene Power Company has been set up for this purpose. The second stage of the tender for selecting a strategic investor is currently winding down with two candidates left - Germany's RWE and Belgium's Electrabel.

The Belene NPP construction site is 250 kilometers from Sofia. The construction project was developed with the participation of Soviet experts, but in 1992 the works were halted following a decision made by the Bulgarian government. The government has since decided to resume the project in connection with the halting of two units of the Kozludui NPP.

ZAO Atomstroyexport was formed in 1998 and is one of the word's largest companies constructing nuclear energy facilities. In 2007, the company built and opened two nuclear power units with more than 1 gigawatt of capacity each in China. At present, the company is completing construction on a nuclear power unit in Iran and two units in India. Atomstroyexport is under the control of state corporation Rosatom.

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