Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom announced today it has signed Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) with France's Framatome and GE Steam Power of the USA to participate in a tender to construct the Belene nuclear power plant in Bulgaria.

A worker at the Belene site in Bulgaria, where preliminary site works began in 2008 (Image: Rosatom)

The MoUs were signed by Kirill Komarov, Rosatom's first deputy director general of corporate development and international business, Frédéric Lelièvre, Framatome's senior executive vice president in charge of sales, regional platforms and I&C, and Michael Keroulle, president of GE Steam Power.

As part of the agreements, Rosatom said that if it were to become a strategic investor in the project through a competitive process, GE would be considered as the partner for an Arabelle based turbine-generator set and turbine hall equipment, while Framatome would be considered as the key partner for the instrumentation and control (I&C) systems for the Belene plant.

The Belene project in northern Bulgaria includes construction of two 1000 MWe units, each using the Russian VVER-1000/V-466 design which is a pressurised water reactor with four circulating loops. Preliminary site works began in 2008, and contracts for components including large forgings and I&C systems were signed with suppliers, but the project was stymied by financing problems.

Until the Belene project was suspended in 2012, the main contractor for engineering, procurement and construction was Atomstroyexport, the technical design of the Belene plant was prepared by the chief designer Atomenergoproject, and Areva NP GmbH was a subcontractor for the electrical systems, safety systems, management and control, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning, etc.

The equipment manufactured and delivered in 2017 for the nuclear island was manufactured by Izhora Plants, ZiO-Podolsk and Atommashexport. Atomstroyexport, Atomenergoproject, Izhora Plants, ZiO-Podolsk and Atommashexport are all subsidiaries of Rosatom. In June 2018, the Bulgarian parliament mandated the country's energy minister to resume the search for investors in the project.

In December last year, the Bulgarian energy ministry announced it had shortlisted five out of a total of 13 applicants to participate in the Belene construction project. China National Nuclear Corporation, Rosatom and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co were selected as potential strategic investors in the project. Framatome and General Electric, which had both expressed an interest in providing equipment and in arranging financing for the project, were also selected. The Bulgarian government has said it will take a majority stake in the Belene project, which it expects to be completed by 2030. However, it has said it will not provide state nor corporate guarantees, or offer to buy electricity from the plant under long-term contracts with preferential rates.

"The signed MoUs underline a continuously high level of trust between our companies," said Komarov. "I am sure that international cooperation between nuclear industry leaders will help create the best financial and technical conditions for the implementation of the Belene nuclear power plant."

Rosatom noted that it has already successfully collaborated with Framatome and GE on international projects, including the Paks-II nuclear power plant in Hungary and the Hanhikivi-1 plant in Finland. It said the cooperation with GE is carried out within the framework of the Akkuyu project in Turkey and the El-Dabaa project in Egypt. AAEM, a joint venture between GE and Rosatom subsidiary Atomenergomash, is a supplier of equipment for the turbine island of each plant.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

Date: Friday, 19 June 2020
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