Bulgaria picks Westinghouse to study new nuclear unit

SOFIA, Aug 27 (Reuters) - Bulgaria has relaunched its nuclear power programme, hiring Westinghouse to prepare a proposal for a third reactor at its Kozloduy site, having shelved plans to build a new plant at Belene in March after failing to attract foreign investors.

Bulgaria is one of the few European Union counties pursuing new reactor projects after last year’s Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan and Germany’s move to phase out nuclear power.

Westinghouse - Japanese group Toshiba’s U.S. nuclear unit - must report by March on the likely cost of a 1,000 megawatt reactor at Kozloduy, on the Danube River bordering Romania, energy minister Delyan Dobrev said on Monday.

The group beat French company Areva, which bid alone and in a tie-up with Japanese group Mitsubishi, WorleyParsons and Bulgarian Risk Engineering for the feasibility study.

Westinghouse has to prepare a plan on how to use a 1,000 megawatt reactor built by Russian firm Atomstroyexport for the Belene nuclear project at the Kozloduy site, Dobrev said.

The new project will have a variety of suppliers for the non-nuclear aspects, which should make it more interesting to investors, he said. The government plans offer up to 49 percent to foreign investors.

Bulgaria abandoned plans for a 2,000 MW nuclear plant at Belene after it failed to attract investors for the 10 billion euros ($12.5 billion) project.

Russia, contracted to build the Belene plant back in 2006, had opted to finance it. Bulgaria’s centre-right government turned down that offer to allay concerns that Russia would gain control of the EU country’s nuclear future.

Dobrev would not comment on the cost of the new reactor, saying the Kozloduy site already had infrastructure that should reduce the total cost.

About 32 percent of energy produced in Bulgaria comes from the 2,000 MW Kozloduy plant, and Bulgaria plans to keep nuclear energy as one of the key sources in its power mix.

Separately on Monday, Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said improving global nuclear safety after Fukushima must remain an urgent concern, despite improvements already made. ($1 = 0.7989 euro) (Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Dan Lalor)