Foreign companies eye Belene nuclear plant: Bulgaria

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A French company and a Finnish group could be interested in buying a stake in Bulgaria's long-stalled Belene nuclear plant, Energy Minister Traicho Traikov said Tuesday.

Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of an energy forum in Sofia, Traikov said French consultancy Altran Technologies and Finnish power company Fortum Corporation had expressed interest "in principle" in buying a stake.

Nevertheless, neither the exact size of the investments nor any further details had been agreed as yet.

Russia's Atomstroyexport has been contracted to build the 2,000-megawatt nuclear power plant at Belene, in northern Bulgaria. But the project has been dogged by a dispute over the construction costs and the withdrawal of German investor, the power giant RWE, which was originally to have held a 49-percent stake.

Atomstroyexport puts the estimated final cost of Belene at at least 6.3 billion euros (8.6 billion dollars), compared to just 3.9 billion euros initially.

But Sofia insists the cost must not exceed 5.0 billion euros.

In the meantime, Russia signalled it would be prepared to take up a stake of 30-40 percent in the plant, an arrangement to which Bulgaria has so far been reluctant to agree.

Minister Traikov said neighbouring Serbia had also expressed an interest in acquiring a stake of up to 10 percent.

"We've set ourselves a deadline of several months in which to settle all outstanding issues, including the price, on which there is still no agreement," Traikov said.

The head of Atomstroyexport's parent company Rosatom, Sergey Kirienko, was expected to discuss the Belene project with Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov later on Tuesday.

© 2010 AFP

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