Slovakia says Mochovce nuclear plant to cost more than expected

BRATISLAVA, May 25 (Reuters) - Construction costs for Slovakia’s Mochovce nuclear plant, due to be completed by 2018, will be higher than the 4.6 billion euros ($5 bln) approved by the government, its economy minister said on Wednesday.

The plant, being built by Slovak electricity producer Slovenske Elektrarne, which is majority owned by Italy’s Enel , has been beset by delays and cost overruns.

The budget has already risen to 4.6 billion euros, from an original 2.8 billion euros, partly because of new safety improvements after the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant in 2011.

“Slovenske Elektrarne has hinted there will be additional costs at yesterday’s meeting,” Economy Minister Peter Ziga told Reuters before a weekly cabinet meeting in Bratislava. He held a meeting with Slovenske executives on Tuesday, his first since becoming economy minister in March.

The government has a 34 percent stake in Slovenske Elektrarne and has to approve any budget changes.

A spokeswoman for Enel, which owns 66 percent of Slovenske Elektrarne, said a team was working on a new cost analysis of the project.

Slovenske Elektrarne said in November it expects unit 3 to be operational by the end of this year or early 2017 and unit 4 a year later.

Enel signed a deal with Czech energy company EPH in December to sell its stake in Slovenske Elektrarne in two stages, 33 percent initially and the rest after the Mochovce expansion is completed.

Slovakia’s centre-left government has long said it would seek a larger role in Slovenske Elektrarne but has pressured Enel not to sell its stake completely before the Mochovce project is finished.

Under an agreement with Enel and the Slovakian government, EPH has agreed to sell 17 percent of its holding in Slovenske Elektrarne to the government.

The Slovak state will have six months after the completion of the Mochovce project to decide whether to raise its holding to 51 percent.

The government will also have a pre-emptive right to buy all of Slovenske if EPH decides to sell. ($1 = 0.8974 euros) (Reporting By Tatiana Jancarikova; Editing by Susan Fenton)