Alternative fuel supply tender expected “within weeks” Bulgaria no longer receives natural gas supplies from Russia and has been considering to look for alternative nuclear fuel supplies for its two-unit Kozloduy plant. Image courtesy Flickr / Lukas Plewnia. Bulgaria will be looking to find new nuclear fuel suppliers for its Kozloduy nuclear power station by the end of 2024, according to a draft recent decision passed by the national parliament’s energy committee.

Currently the Balkan country receives nuclear fuel from Russia’s state-owned Tvel company under a 2019 contract which is set to expire in 2025.

Earlier this week, local media reported that Bulgaria’s care taker government is planning “within weeks” to launch a tender for the supply of nuclear fuel, which will exclude Russia, but invite US-based Westinghouse Electric and France’s Framatome.

Bulgaria has two Russia-designed VVER-1000 pressurised water reactor units in commercial operation at Kozloduy on the Danube River in the north of the country. The two plants, inherited from the socialist era, provide about one third of the country’s electricity.

According to acting energy minister Rumen Hristov, apart from Russia’s Tvel, only Westinghouse and Framatome could supply fuel for VVER-1000 PWR designs.

Mr Hristov said supplies from Russia are “in question” due to Moscow's “reluctance to cooperate”.

“We are focusing entirely on European and American sources of fuel, and we expect contracts to be signed soon," he said.

Westinghouse had earlier expressed an interest in supplying fuel to Kozloduy and in 2019 signed agreements with the station on initial studies and safety assessments to be used in regulatory reviews.

In 2021, Kozloduy said the Westinghouse involvement was part of the station’s efforts to diversify its fuel supplier portfolio as required by the European Union’s energy security strategy.

In March 2022, after the Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had begun, then energy minister Alexander Nikolov told local media that Sofia was aiming by mid-2024 to be able to use nuclear fuel produced by Westinghouse at one of the Kozloduy reactor units.

The US company has VVER-1000 fuel supply deals already in the Czech Republic and Ukraine, where operators have decided to work towards cutting their dependency on Russia.

Bulgaria has had a working parliament since an inconclusive general election on 2 October, but no coalition government has been formed to date, hampering important political decisions. The executive is being run by a caretaker government appointed by the president, but without legislative power.

Date: Saturday, 05 November 2022
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