Belene (Bulgaria)

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Belene is the construction site of Bulgaria's second NPP. Construction was stopped in 1990 over protest from environmentalists and lack of funds. Belene was started to be constructed with a VVER 1000 reactor.

No new reactor for Bulgaria

An EIA for the Belene nuclear power station was carried out in 2004 and the Bulgarian Ministry of Environment approved the final report in December of that year. A coalition of environmental organizations, concerned citizens and experts appealed this decision on the basis of the insufficient quality of the assessment and the report. ASE won the tender with a reactor model called AES-92. The AES-92 is an updated VVER 1000/320 , which is the Soviet-type pressurized light water reactor known in Russia as the third generation VVER 1000 reactor VVER-1000/V392. VVER 1000/V320 are in operation in Russia, as well as in Bulgaria (Kozloduy 5/6); ASE intends to deliver two of these new 1000 MW AES -92 reactors to Bulgaria. There is not much information published on this reactor. What we found is provided in AES-92- The Mystery Reactor

The AES-92 is a costumized 1000 MW VVER reactor. First units of this type started operation in 2006 / 2007 in China. Another two of these reactors are under construction in India.

In 2011 the project was cancelled due to financial reasons (see news article below).

Facilities in Belene

plantreactor typconstruction startoperation startshut down
2011-03-28: Belene NPP construction declared dead

"Bulgaria's Belene Nuclear Power Plant will not be constructed, the country's Deputy Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov announced on on Wednesday.

A natural gas power plant will be built in the Danube town of Belene instead, Goranov told reporters after Wednesday's Council of Ministers sitting.

The nuclear reactor already assembled by Rosatom subsidiary Atomstroyexport and originally meant for Belene will be placed in Bulgaria's sole nuclear power plant, Kozloduy.

On Thursday, Bulgaria's newly appointed Economy and Energy Minister Delyan Dobrev will travel to Moscow in order to inform Russia of his country's decision to scrap the project.

The construction of the 2000 MW plant by Atomexportstroy had been delayed with annexes 15 times.

At the end of last week, Bulgaria's Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said in a TV interview that Belene would never remain just a Russian-Bulgarian project and would not go forward without a European or American investor.

A few days ago, his Deputy, Finance Minister Simeon Djankov, admitted that Bulgaria has "almost given up on the project."

Russia's state-owned nuclear corporation Rosatom had made it clear it is ready to agree on yet another extension of the contract with the Bulgarian government for the construction of the Belene nuclear power plant.

The currently active extension of the 2006 deal between Bulgaria's National Electric Company NEK and Rosatom's subsidiary Atomstroyexport was set to expire at the end of March 2012.

In October 2011, Bulgaria and Russia reached an agreement to extend the negotiations over Belene nuclear project by another six months as of the beginning of October amidst continuing haggling over its price and feasibility.

The greatest issue over which Bulgaria and Russia had been haggling for the past two years under the Borisov Cabinet was the price of the project, with Russia insisting it should be no less than EUR 6.3 B, while Bulgaria was demanding a price of no more than EUR 5 B.

After selecting the Russian company Atomstroyexport, a subsidiary of Rosatom, to build a two 1000-MW reactors at Belene and signing a deal for the construction, allegedly for the price of EUR 3.997 B, with the Russians during Putin's visit to Sofia in January 2008, in September 2008, former Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev gave a formal restart of the building of Belene.

At the end of 2008, German energy giant RWE was selected as a strategic foreign investor for the plant.

The Belene NPP was de facto frozen in the fall of 2009 when the previously selected strategic investor, the German company RWE, which was supposed to provide EUR 2 B in exchange for a 49% stake, pulled out.

In November 2010, shortly after a visit to Sofia by Russian PM Putin, Bulgaria's National Electric Company NEK and Russian state company Rosatom signed a memorandum providing for a final fixed price for the two reactors of EUR 6.298 B.

According to the non-binding memorandum expiring on March 31, 2011, Bulgaria's NEK would have had a share of 51% in the Belene NPP, Rosatom – a share of 47%, Finnish company Fortum - a share of 1%, and French company Altran Technologies - a share of 1% with an option to increase it. Serbia had expressed interest in acquiring a share of 5%-10%.

In mid-March 2011, apparently acting on concerns caused by the situation in Japan's Fukushima NPP after the recent devastating earthquake there, the European Commission confirmed that it wanted to reexamine the Belene NPP project - once Bulgaria finds an investor for it - even though it already approved it back in 2007."

(source: SOFIA NEWS AGENCY - novinite, distributed over

Earthquake at planned site for Belene NPP

In the evening of 25 April, the region around the planned nuclear power station Belene in North
Bulgaria was shaken by an earthquake of 5,3 on the Richter scale. According to the Sofia News
Agency, panic broke out in several places. In the towns of Svishtov and Nikopol, only several
kilometers from site of the planned nuclear power station, people left their houses and stayed
out for over an hour. The epicentre of the quake was situated in the Vrancha area in Romania.
This was also the origin of the large earthquake in 1977 that killed 120 people in Svishtov and
damaged 2/3 of the buildings in the town.

"The seismic risks of the site are well known for a long time - building a nuclear power station
here should never have been allowed in the first place," said the Bulgarian environmentalist and
Goldman Environmental Award winner Albena Simeonova, who has an organic farm near
Belene. "Yesterday's earthquake is a new warning to RWE. The company should withdraw
immediately from this project. Otherwise Bulgaria could become the site of a new Chernobyl,"
said Simeonova.

On the shareholdersmeeting on 22 April, RWE CEO Jürgen Großmann for the first time
announced the company will do seismic studies to the site. "This documents the complete
incompetence of the company," comments Heffa Schücking, director of the environmental and
human rights organisation urgewald. "Seismic studies should be done at the start of the project
and not at the end of the planning process," and she explained, that the design of a nuclear
power plant is tailor made for the location. That is not only for the base, but also for the
vulnerable inner parts of the reactors. In the case of Belene, the detailed design by the Russian
nuclear constructor is already ready and the licencing procedure in Buglaria is already in full
swing. "These studies would come far too late and the results have to be considered therefore
pre-determined. From our point of view, this is a simple PR stunt to silence concerned
shareholders and members in the Supervisory Board," according to Schücking.

RWE is under increasing pressure, not only from environmental organisations. On the
shareholders meeting several large shareholders criticised the Belene project. For example, the
representative of the Union Investment Group, holding 4,5 Million RWE shares, said:
"Participation in this power station is irresponsible [...] That the RWE management allows itself
to be linked with this ticking time-bomb is incomprehensible."

Also the Dutch province of Brabant has a critical view. It is currently blocking the sale of the
Dutch utility Essent to RWE. In the 12 hour debate in the Brabant provincial parliament last
Friday, Belene was mentioned several times as example of the irresponsible investment policies
of RWE.


RWE puts its reputation at stake

German power utility RWE put its reputation at stake by pursuing an interest to buy 49 per cent in the company that would build and operate Bulgaria's second nuclear power plant at Belene on the Danube River, Greenpeace has said in a media statement.

RWE was picked by Bulgaria's Cabinet as the preferred buyer of the stake on October 3 2008, with the remaining 51 per cent to be kept by state-owned power grid operator National Electricity Company (NEK).

RWE won the race against Belgian peer Electrabel, offering a loan of 550 million leva to NEK to finance the project until a financing scheme is agreed. It would pay 1.275 billion euro for the stake, which could rise to two billion euro by the time the power station is finished in 2014. The deal was expected to be signed by end-November, by which point the terms of the contract would be finalised, Economy and Energy Minister Petar Dimitrov said on October 3.

"Up to now RWE has only operated nuclear power plants in its home market," Greenpeace EU policy and energy campaigner Jan Haverkamp said in the statement.

"In Bulgaria, however, there is a poor safety culture and Bulgaria has repeatedly been warned by the EU because of corruption cases. Only a few weeks ago, NEK, the majority shareholder in Belene, announced that Bulgarian companies would be awarded contracts without a public tender. Such an environment opens the door to corruption and makes it difficult to guarantee high-quality safety standards."

According to Heffa Schücking, from German environmental organisation Urgewald, there were many risks for RWE related to the Belene investment and one of them is the impact it would have on the company's reputation in Germany.

"The use of Russian reactor technology at the new Belene nuclear power plant and the sitting of the plant in an earthquake zone have already provoked strong misgivings among municipal and union representatives on RWE's supervisory board," Schücking said. "According to German standards, this project would never receive an operating license. We therefore call on RWE's supervisory board to say `No' to this controversial investment," he said.

Environmental organisations across Europe believed Belene to be one of the most dangerous nuclear projects on the current EU agenda. In 1977, a large-scale earthquake shook the region, only 14km away from the planned Belene nuclear power station site, killing 120 people, the environmentalists said.

Albena Simeonova from the Bulgarian coalition BelenNE (No to Belene) said: "The plan to build a nuclear power plant in Belene goes back to the early 1980s. In 1983, however, even Soviet scientists warned that this location is not suitable for a nuclear power station. RWE and the Bulgarian Government are playing Russian roulette with the health and safety of millions of citizens."
(source: by Elitsa Grancharova)


Belene: longer time, higher price.
in June Bulgarian authorities finally admited that the Belene nuclear power plant is delayed significally and will costs more than contracted with Russian "Atomexportstroy". In an attempt to reject estimations of Georgi Kaschiev, a well-known nuclear expert, that Belene investment costs would grow as much as twice, representatives of NEK (National Electricity Utility) said the price may increase "up to 20% according to the inflation within EU." At the same time they confirmed that a number of important investments are not included in the contract, such us first fuel supply, turbine generators, linkage infrastructure (substaitions, grid, etc.) as well as the price of capital. NEK didn´t say how all these expenditures would inluence the overall investment in the power plant. The management of radioactive waste and decommissioning costs are also not included in the calculations of the electricity cost from Belene, officially estimated on 40 Euro/MWh, while Kaschiev´s figures are targeting some 90 Euro/MWh.
Later on, in an report during the President´s Council on National Security (June 24), the Minister of Economy and Energy admited that the construction schedule for Belene is already late, "by two years", thus moving the connection of Unit 1 to the system by 2015. According to the einvironmental activists the real delay is already six years from the inital plans to begin operation in december 2009. The physical construction of Belene nuclear power plant has not started yet.
Meanwhile the "NO to belene NPP!" Coalition is observing possibilities to put the EC either to the Ombudman, or to European Court. According to Petko Kovatchev from the coalition, "the Commission is continuously violating its principles for transparancy, nuclear safety and environmental protection, thus giving unprecendented political support to a project, that will bring long-lasting problems for all Europe".


NEK, BNP Paribas sign contract for Belene finance structuring

Bulgaria´s National Electricitiy Co., NEK, and BNP Paribas signed a contract June 4 that provides for the Paris-based bank to structure financing for NEK´s Belene nuclear power plant prject, according to both companies and to Russia´s Atomstroyexport, which is set to build the two VVER-1000s.
As recently as last week after BNP Paribas officials insisted the contract was only for an advisory role and not for loan syndication.
BNP Paribas has stressed that it has not committed to lend money for the project. Environmental organizations say that BNP Paribas CEO Baudouin Prot promised them his bank would not participate in the Belene project financing Bank spokesmen have said BNP Paribas will participate only in "peripheral" aspects of the project, not the main loan syndication.

´No obligation´
NEK´s Nikolov said June 10, however, that the contract with BNP Paribas includes "no obligation to participate in the financing."
The turnkey contract signed by Atomstroyexport and NEK on January 18 is worth EUR 3.997 billion (US $ 6.178 billion currently.) Talking into account financing and other additional costs, the two VVER´s are likely to end up costing EUR 6 billion to Eur 7 billion, according to an expert familiar with such projects.
The Russian government is expected to provide most of the export credit financing in support of ASE. NEK, or the "strategic investor" that will eventually own and operate Belene, could also apply for financing from Euratom and the European Investment Bank, he said. The third source of potential financing would be a syndicated bank loan.
A corporate banking source confirmed the banks "are no longer willing to take the risks" inherent in nuclear plant construction through project financing.
NEK is negotiating with Electrabel and RWE on their taking a 49% share, possibly together, in the future Belene investor company.

Final offers of tender candidates

Last week Economy and Energy Minister Roumen Ovcharov received the two final offers of the tender candidates, the Russian Atomstroyexport and the Check Skoda Allianz. The minister said the plant construction is technically difficult and legally doubtful without Russia's participation. The criteria by which the offers will be judged remain unclear. According to Banker newspaper there is huge difference between the price offers, the Russian one being nearly 0.5 billion euro lower.

Grennpeace: illegal behavior of Skoda alliance

Today, Greenpeace informed the Bulgarian Government and the Bulgarian electricity company NEK about illegal behavior of members of the Skoda Alliance during the building of the Temelin nuclear power station in the Czech Republic. Greenpeace warns that this case shows the attitude of the building industry towards nuclear projects - an attitude that might increase costs and severely impairs nuclear safety. The Skoda Alliance is one of two bidders for building the Belene Nuclear Power Plant in North Bulgaria.

Skopje invokes Espoo convention

The Macedonian Environmental Ministry this morning officially confirmed to the environmental organization Eco-Sense in Skopje, that it has requested last week the Macedonian Foreign Ministry to invoke the Espoo convention on transboundary EIA for the building of the Belene nuclear power station.

Government approves construction

The Bulgarian government has approved the construction of the country's second 1000 MW nuclear power plant at Belene. The government has estimated the extra costs to be 2.5 bn euros.

Final report - insufficient assessment

The EIA for the Belene nuclear power station was carried out in 2004 and the Bulgarian Ministry of Environment approved the final report in December of that year. A coalition of environmental organizations, concerned citizens and experts appealed this decision on the basis of the insufficient quality of the assessment and the report.

Participating enterprises

Bulgarian state power utility NETC has chosen consultants Parsons Europe Ltd. to design and supervise the construction of Belene. Parsons beat out Spain's Impresarios Agrupados Internacional, which had also been vying for the contract. Earlier this month, NETC tapped Deloitte Central Europe Limited and Norton Rose to act as financial advisers. Bulgaria aims for the state to keep a majority in the Belene plant, but it expects foreign investors to also take stakes and provide financing.
Three groups have shown interest in building Belene, including one comprising Czech engineering firm Skoda Praha, Citibank, Italy's Unicredito and Czech Komercni Banka. Another competitor includes France's Framatome and Russia's Atomstroiexport. These have proposed using the existing site at Belene. The third consortium, made up of Canada's Atomic Energy Canada Ltd, Italian Ansaldo Nuclear, U.S. Bechtel and Japan's Hitachi has offered to build an entirely new plant, but is now considering pulling out of the contest.

Russia: oil pipeline for participation

Russia is likely to agree to the construction of oil pipeline Burgas-Alexandroupolis against political support for participation of Russian companies in the nuclear power plant construction at Belene.

Start 2010?

The Bulgarian Prime Minister Saxe-Coburg announced that the power plant in Belene should be operational in 2010, four years after the planned closure of two 440 megawatt reactors at Kozloduy. Energy Minister Milko Kovachev said the project was expected to cost another two billion euros by 2010.

CANDU vs. WWER 1000

Until June 2004 the technology used for completion of the Belene plant shall be selected. The Bulgarian authorities choose between the Canadian CANDU, proposed by the Canadian state company Atomic Energy of Canada (AECL), and Russia's WWER 1000, applied at Kozloduy's 5th and 6th units.

Decission to resume nuclear power plant

The Bulgarian Council of Ministers decided on 19 December 2002 to resume the construction of the Belene nuclear power plant. The construction is planned to resume in 2003. The plant will cost about 1 billion dollars. The reactors will become operational in 2008. According to Energy Minister Milko Kovachev, Bulgaria has a place for another 1,200 MW of nuclear capacity.

Situation since 1990

Bulgaria's national electricity company is taking steps to resume construction of the plant. Belene-1 was 45% complete in 1990, when work stopped. Nearly all major equipment had already been delivered ( from Skoda & others): RPV, SGs, MCPs.
1300 million US$ is already invested, completion of the first unit needs another 700 million US$.