On 11 March 2019 NEK announced the start of the procedure, but said the call for interest would become effective after being published in the journal. Parties would then have 90 days to apply and 12 months to complete the procedure.
According to the Bulgarian daily Kapital, NEK was unable to publish the call for interest in the journal on time because of the requirement to translate the 100-page documentation into the 24 official EU languages.
The publication is now expected to happen in early June, said Kapital quoting Bulgarian energy minister Temenuzhka Petkova, who confirmed that preparation of the relevant documentation is under way.
In March, NEK said it would be looking for an investor for the construction of Belene with options to take a minority stake in a future project company or purchase electricity to be generated by the facility.
The purpose of the call for interest is to gather information about potential candidates, but NEK said Bulgaria will participate in the project company by contributing assets including the licensed site, nuclear island equipment, permits and documentation.
According to the call for interest, the station must be operational within 10 years from the signing of an investors’ agreement and its cost must not exceed €10bn for both units.
In 2008, Bulgaria ordered two Russian VVER-1000 pressurised water reactor units for Belene, 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 had awarded Bulgaria most of the nuclear equipment already produced by Russia for Belene under the 2008 agreement.
France’s Framatome, China’s CNNC, Russia’s Rosatom and US-based General Electric have already formally expressed an interest in investing or providing equipment and services for Belene. Talks have also been held with South Korea’s Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power.
Bulgarian officials have said that if Bulgaria goes ahead with the Belene project Russia’s Atomstroyexport will be the main contractor.