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Brussels, 7 December 2007

European Commission gives a favourable opinion to the new nuclear power plant of Belene, Bulgaria

The Commission has decided today to give a favourable opinion to the initiative of Natsionalna Elektricheska Kompania (NEK) of Bulgaria to build a new nuclear power plant at the site of Belene, according to the requirements of articles 41 to 44 of the Euratom Treaty. Those requirements state that any new investment related to nuclear activities has to be communicated to the Commission which should, in return, send a report with its views to the Member State concerned.

During the notification procedure under the Euratom Treaty the Commission has held extensive discussions with the nuclear operator. The Commission concluded that the aspects of the investment in question are in line with the objectives of the Euratom Treaty.

The Commission notes in particular that NEK addressed future costs for the decommissioning of the nuclear power plant in its financial provisions as well as segregated funds for the management of radioactive waste emanating from the nuclear plant's lifecycle.

The Commission takes note of the information from the Investor that the chosen design at Belene includes various passive safety systems as well as improved protection against external hazards, such as earthquakes and air crashes.

The Commission underlined for the investor the importance of diversification of supply sources under the aspect of secure supply of nuclear fuel for the whole EU nuclear industry.

The Commission has drawn particular attention to the need for Bulgaria to develop plans for the long-term management of the radioactive waste arising from the operation and later decommissioning of the plant, in particular as regards High Level Waste.

If in the future a request is made for a Euratom loan, such request will be evaluated according to its own merits, notably in relation to its economic, financial and environmental characteristics. The issuing by the Commission of a positive opinion on the planed investment is one the conditions to be fulfilled.

The Commission will closely follow up on the development of the nuclear industrial activities related to the Belene investment project also in the future, notably its environmental aspects.

Technical Background of the project

According to the notification received, the AES92 is a pressurised water reactor, with a power capacity of 1049 MWe. The two units, which will provide a total installed electrical power of 2000 MWe and are of a new design based on VVER technology, developed by Atomstroyexport JSC, Russia, who will act as the main contractor and a consortium of AREVA NP (France) and Siemens (Germany) as main sub-contractors. Compared to previous VVER 1000 Russian reactor types in operation, the AES92 should comprise advanced technology passive safety systems and are considered to be in compliance with European Utility Requirements (EUR)[1] for Light Water Reactors in the EU. Construction is scheduled to start in 2008. Commissioning of the reactors is foreseen for 2012–13. The amount to be invested is around € 4 billion.

[1] The EUR document is a nuclear power plant specification written by a group of potential investors in electricity generation in Europe, mostly utilities and other industrial institutions. Its membership includes organisations from EU Member States, Switzerland as well as from Russia (Rosenergoatom). The EUR document has also been used as a base for the bid specification of the new Olkiluoto 3 nuclear unit construction in Finland. It is, however, not a regulatory type of design safety standard on an EU-wide level.

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