Belene Nuclear Power Plant - History - Restart


In 2002 the Government decided in-principle for a re-start of the Belene Project. Fulfillment of all legislative requirements allowed the Government to approve the construction of a nuclear power plant on the Belene site with total rated capacity of 2000 megawatts. The Ministry of Energy began to renew the available equipment and examine the possible construction of the new nuclear plant. In February 2003 Minister Milko Kovachev sent letters to six leading companies in the sphere of nuclear energy asking them to provide up-to-date technical, economic and financial information regarding the project.

A working group of experts was formed by an order of the Ministry of Energy and Energy Resources of 27 May 2003, which included experts from the Ministry of Energy and Energy Resources, the Ministry of Environment and Waters, the Ministry of Transport and Communication, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Health, the Nuclear Regulatory Agency, the State Energy and Water Regulatory Commission, the State Agency for Civil Protection, the National Electric Company and BulAtom. A programme for the exprert commission's work was approved on 4 July 2003.

Pursuant to the above-mentioned decision, on May 10, 2005, the National Electric Company launched a procedure for selection of a Contractor for the engineering, procurement, and commissioning of Belene Nuclear Power Plant, Units 1&2.

In late October 2006 the offer of the Russian Atomstroyexport, the French Framatome (Areva), and the German Siemens using third-generation VVER-1000/V-446B reactors was approved by the National Electric Company. The offer was selected due to the highest safety level guaranteed by several new independent active and passive safety systems, as well as the option for Atomstroyexport to buy back the old unit supplied in the 1980s. Another reasons was the 60-year operation term. According to the Atomstroyexport president, the first unit would be in operation by 2013 and the second a year later.

On 7 December 2007 the European Commission gave its favourable opinion to the NPP, saying that it met all requirements of articles 41 to 44 of the Euratom Treaty. A favourable opinion of the EC is one of the requirements for a Euratom loan.

On 18 January 2008, Atomstroyexport and Bulgaria's National Electric Company (NEC) signed the contract for the design, construction and installation of units 1 and 2 of the Belene NPP. On 3 September 2008, the construction of the Belene NPP officially started. According to the Minister of Energy Petar Dimitrov, the Belene plant would operate "the most secure reactors existing in the world"; he also asserted that "the chance there would be a failure in those reactors is practically zero". Prime Minister Stanishev and Minister Dimitrov also called the project "a Renaissance for Bulgaria's nuclear energy" and "the largest industrial project in Bulgaria in the last eighteen years". More than 10,000 construction workers would be employed in the project, with the first reactor expected to be operating by the end of 2013, the second by the end of 2014.

According to the schedule, Unit 1 of the A92 design has to be erected for 6.5 years and Unit 2 for 7.5 years with consideration of the specific licensing terms as per the Bulgarian legislation. The longest time consuming activities are related to the design work and equipment delivery (58 months), as well as to the very construction and installation (51 months).

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