Bulgaria signs deal to build radioactive waste depot

SOFIA, July 7 (Reuters) - Bulgaria has signed a 72 million euro ($80 million) deal with a consortium to build a radioactive waste depot for its Kozloduy nuclear plant that should become operational in 2021, the energy ministry said on Thursday.

The Balkan country has signed a contract with German Nukem Technologies, controlled by Russia’s state nuclear company Atomstroyexport, and four Bulgarian companies for the first phase of the facility that will help with the decommissioning of four Soviet-era nuclear reactors at Kozloduy.

The project is financed by the Kozloduy International Decommissioning Support Fund, administered by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

Bulgaria shut its four 440 megawatt (MW) Soviet-era reactors at Kozloduy over safety concerns and as part of its deal to become an European Union member state in 2007. At present, Kozloduy operates two 1,000 MW reactors.

In 2012, a Nukem Technologies-led consortium built a dry spent fuel storage facility at Kozloduy that stored radioactive waste in dry casks.

The new depot, with a capacity of 138,200 square metres, will be used to store long-term radioactive waste that has been initially safeguarded in reinforced concrete packages.

An arbitration court ruled last month that Bulgaria has to pay nearly 550 million euros in compensation to Russia’s Atomstroyexport for cancelling a project to build two 1,000 MW nuclear reactors at Belene.

$1 = 0.9035 euros Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Mark Potter