A call for binding tenders will be extended to four state-owned companies: Russia’s Rosatom, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Company (KHNP) and Framatome, a subsidiary of France’s EDF. The fifth company is US-based General Electric.
Rosatom, CNNC, and KHNP will be invited to bid as investors in the project, while Framatome and GE will be offered the opportunity to supply equipment for the project.
Bulgaria said a commission reviewed all the applications and based its decision on whether the candidates had experience in building and investing in nuclear power and adequate financial capacity.
In August 2019, seven companies, three of which were Bulgarian, applied to be investors in Belene. Framatome and GE want to supply equipment and help in the financial structuring of the project, without investing their own capital.
The government of North Macedonia and four Bulgarian companies expressed their interest in taking minority stakes in the project or buying electricity produced by the future plant.
The Belene facility, estimated to cost about €10bn, could be operational in 10 years. Bulgaria plans to choose investors by 22 May 2020 to build and operate two Russian-made VVER-1000 pressurised water reactor units at the site on the Danube River.
The government wants to attract private investment for the project with no state guarantees or long-term electricity purchase contracts.
Bulgarian energy minister Temenuzhka Petkova told national television that the government would like state energy company NEK to have a “blocking stake” in the project – potentially giving it a veto if necessary – by contributing existing assets and infrastructure worth about €1.5bn at the Belene site.
“This is a necessity, because the project will be on our territory and the nuclear risk will remain in our country”, Ms Petkova said.
Bulgaria ordered the two Russian reactor units for Belene in 2008, but the project was cancelled in 2012 because of financial and political considerations.
In June 2018, the government formally revived the project following a vote in parliament.
A 2016 arbitration settlement awarded Bulgaria most of the nuclear equipment already produced by Russia for Belene under the 2008 agreement.
As a result, if Bulgaria goes ahead with the project, Russia’s Atomstroyexport will be the main contractor.