SOFIA, Nov 23 (Reuters) - The Bulgarian government will take a decision on the construction of a third reactor at its sole nuclear power plant Kozloduy, using U.S. technology, by the end of the year, its energy minister said on Saturday.
The Balkan country has hired Westinghouse to prepare a proposal for the new reactor, having shelved plans to build a new 2,000-MW plant at Belene on the Danube after failing to attract foreign investors to the 10 billion-euro project.
“Bulgarian and American officials have discussed the construction of a new nuclear power plant reactor at Kozloduy,” Energy Minister Dragomir Stoynev told reporters after returning from a visit to the United States.
“The size of the investment needs to be established. We expect that a financial model will be drawn up within six months.”
Stoynev said he was preparing a report on the subject to be submitted to Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski for approval, adding that construction could begin in 2016 and would last at least four years.
He said the state-owned Export Credit Bank of Turkey, known as Eximbank, had expressed readiness to finance up to 70 percent of the project and Bulgaria planned to keep nuclear energy as one of the key sources in its mix of power sources.
Bulgaria is one of the few European Union counties pursuing new reactor projects in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011 and Germany’s move to phase out nuclear power.
Some 35 percent of energy produced in Bulgaria comes from the 2,000 MW Kozloduy plant, but the licence of one of its two reactors expires in November 2017 and the other two years later.
Without new construction, ”Bulgaria will have no more nuclear capacity in 15 years“, Stoynev said. ”More than half of our thermal power plants will be closed.
“What shall we do then? We cannot remain solely reliant on hydro power generation or renewable energy sources. Now is the time to start working on building new capacity.”
Russia offered to finance the Belene plant in 2006 but Bulgaria’s former centre-right government turned down the offer because of concerns Moscow would gain control of the EU country’s nuclear future. (Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; editing by Andrew Roche)