Bulgaria urges RWE to approve Belene nuclear

Friday, November 7, 2008

SOFIA, Nov 6 (Reuters) - Bulgaria urged German power utility RWE on Thursday to reject pressure from green activists and approve a deal to become a strategic investor in a planned 4.0 billion euro ($5.16 billion) nuclear power plant.

Deputy Energy Minister Yavor Kuyumdzhiev said Bulgaria will wait for RWE's supervisory board approval of the deal until the spring of 2009, when construction of the 2,000 megawatt Belene plant should start.

The Bulgarian government last month chose RWE to become a strategic partner in the Belene project with a stake of 49 percent. The project aims to restore the Balkan country's position as a leading exporter of power in Southeast Europe. It had initially hoped to sign the deal with RWE in October.

"We will wait for their decision until the spring," Kuyumdzhiev told reporters on the sidelines of an economic forum. "They will make a mistake if they do not enter (the) Belene (project) because nuclear energy has no alternative."

RWE's supervisory board looked into the project last week, but did not come up with a decision, a company spokesman said.

Industry insiders say RWE may delay its decision until it receives more evidence about the safety plans for Belene, in an effort to defuse the protests of environmental groups such as Greenpeace and green party politicians.

"If RWE gives in to pressure from green activists, they will make a mistake," Kuyumdzhiev said.

"Given the huge power shortages in Southeastern Europe, this is a unique investment offer. So, if they do not jump on it, someone else will."

He said some of the 12 companies which had expressed initial interest in the Belene project would most likely still be willing to get on board, and stressed that Bulgaria would push ahead with the nuclear plant in any case.

State power utility NEK, which has a majority stake in Belene, has contracted Russia's Atomstroiexport, along with France's Areva and Germany's Siemens to build the plant. The two reactors are expected to come online in 2013-2014.

Bulgaria is a strong supporter of nuclear energy and believes it is part of the solution to climate change as proponents say atomic power emits almost no greenhouse gas emissions.

Posted in |