Bulgaria 'close to signing Westinghouse and EDF pre-project studies'

28 March 2023

Bulgaria's energy ministry says agreements for pre-project studies are set to be signed with Westinghouse relating to two AP1000 reactors at Kozloduy nuclear power plant, and with EDF for two 1000 MW units at Belene.

Kozloduy 5 and 6 (Image: KNPP)

According to Bulgaria's official BTA news agency the Ministry of Energy said the purpose of the pre-project engineering studies was to look at the options for the projects "including the options for using the existing equipment by integrating it into a modern complete system" and the results would be passed on to the next parliament, which would take the final decision.

BTA said the energy ministry added that the projects were of "strategic importance for energy and national security, and before making a final decision, all options should be evaluated in detail".

Bulgaria has been in political deadlock in recent years, with four elections failing to result in a working coalition being established - a fifth election in two years is now set to be held next week.

Although there has been a clear majority in favour of new nuclear in the parliament, there have been different views about whether the new Kozloduy units should be prioritised, or whether completing the part-built Belene units should come first. In January, Bulgaria's parliament asked ministers to negotiate with the US government for a new AP1000 unit at Kozloduy. The vote urged action to be taken by 1 March which would speed up the process of approval and construction of what would be unit 7 of the Kozloduy plant, as well as initiating a licensing and environmental impact assessment procedure for what would be unit 8.

That led, earlier this month, to Westinghouse signing a memorandum of understanding to initiate planning for the potential deployment of one or more of its AP1000 reactors at Kozloduy.

Deputy Energy Minister Elenko Bozhkov told BTA, earlier on Tuesday, the proposed Westinghouse deal would seek to maximise participation of Bulgarian industry in the construction of the two units, adding that European Commission approval and an intergovernmental agreement will be needed.

Kozloduy 1-4 reactors were VVER-440 models which the European Commission had classified as non-upgradeable and Bulgaria agreed to close them down during their negotiations to join the European Union in 2007. It currently has two Russian-designed VVER-1000 reactors, Kozloduy unit 5 and unit 6 operating.

The Belene project in northern Bulgaria has been for the construction of two 1000 MWe units, using Russian VVER-1000 designs. Preliminary site works began in 2008, and contracts for components including large forgings and I&C systems were signed with suppliers, but the project was stymied by financing problems and was suspended in 2012. In 2019, the government advertised for a strategic investor to participate in the Belene project to build two large reactors, but said that neither funding guarantees nor long-term electricity sales contracts would be offered.

According to the BTA report, EDF executives will be visiting Bulgaria during April to inspect the Belene site and see the equipment already available there. Bozhkov said the intention would be for EDF to finish the construction of the units with French technology.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News