Bulgaria seeks investors to build Belene nuclear plant

SOFIA, March 11 (Reuters) - Bulgaria is seeking a strategic investor for its revived Belene nuclear power project on the Danube, which is estimated will cost at least 10 billion euros ($11.24 billion).

Sofia cancelled the project in 2012 after failing to find investors and facing pressure from the United States and the European Union to limit its energy dependence on Russia, which had been under contract to build the plant.

The Bulgarian energy ministry said in a statement on Monday that it hopes to select an investor in the next year and has asked potential bidders to file letters of interest in the project to build two 1,000 megawatt nuclear reactors.

Russia’s state-owned nuclear company Rosatom, China’s state-owned CNNC, France’s Framatome - a unit of EDF and state-run Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co (KHNP) have expressed initial interest in the project.

Bidders are also asked to say if they will be looking for a minority stake and whether they will be interested in buying electricity from the plant once it is built.

Bulgaria has been sitting on unused nuclear equipment since paying Rosatom more than 620 million euros for scrapping the project seven years ago and in June its parliament ordered the government to revive the Belene project.

Bulgaria plans to keep a blocking stake in the venture and participate with the site, the nuclear reactors and the acquired licences, but would not extend state or corporate guarantees or offer investors to buy out electricity from the plant under long-term contracts at preferential rates.

Energy Minister Temenuzka Petkova said last year that Sofia would prefer an investor who plans to build the plant within eight years for about 9 billion euros. ($1 = 0.8898 euros) (Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova and Angel Krasimirov Editing by Alexander Smith)