Bulgaria, Russia at loggerheads over nuclear plant cost
Bulgaria and Russia clashed Monday over the final cost of a planned nuclear power plant in northern Bulgaria, the energy ministry said after talks over the weekend.
Russia's state-owned Rosatom nuclear power company -- whose engineering branch Atomstroyexport was contracted to build the 2,000-Megawatt plant in Belene -- increased the estimated final cost to 6.3 billion euros (8.6 billion dollars) from an initial 3.9 billion euros, Bulgarian Energy Minister Traicho Traikov said.
"But this price does not suit Bulgaria," he said in an interview with 24 Hours newspaper published on the daily's website.
"From our point of view, the plant's total cost should not go over 5.0 billion euros," Traikov said, adding that there was nothing wrong in having a disagreement with Russia over the deal.
"We just have to work further to make the project beneficial for both sides," he said.
Lack of clarity about the total cost of the long-stalled plant and the withdrawal last year of German utility RWE, which held a 49 percent stake in Belene, have forced Bulgaria to consider dropping the deal unless it finds a new strategic investor.
In a move to unfreeze the project, Russian Premier Vladimir Putin reiterated Saturday in Sofia, Russia's readiness to fund Belene directly through acquiring a stake, through loans or through offering equipment on lease.
Bulgaria was meanwhile expected to choose later on Monday a consultant to come up with a clear financial structure for the project and seek new strategic investors.
© 2010 AFP