November 7, 2018 / 1:44 PM / 5 days ago

Bulgaria to invite Framatome, others to invest in Belene nuclear project

* Also sending invites to Rosatom, China’s CNNC

* Project was revived in June after 6-year hiatus

* 2000-MW plant estimated to cost at least 10 bln eur

SOFIA, Nov 7 (Reuters) - Bulgaria will seek initial expressions of interest from four foreign firms to invest in a revived project to build a nuclear power plant on the Danube, its energy minister said on Wednesday.

Invitations to become strategic investors in the 10 billion euro-plus ($11.3 billion) scheme will go out to China’s CNNC , France’s Framatome - a unit of EDF - and two state-run firms, Russia’s Rosatom and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co (KHNP), Temenuzhka Petkova told reporters.

Sofia cancelled the 2,000-megawatt Belene project in 2012 after failing to find investors and facing pressure from Washington and Brussels to limit its energy dependence on Russia, which was under contract to build the plant.

In June, parliament ordered the government to revive it, and on Wednesday Petkova said an investment plan had been drafted that would take about a year to implement.

Bulgaria has been sitting on unused nuclear equipment since paying Rosatom more than 620 million euros ($712 million) to scrap the project six years ago.

Petkova said Bulgaria would not commit more public funds to Belene, or extend state or corporate guarantees or offer investors power supply contracts at preferential rates.

Under the plan, which is pending approval by lawmakers, the energy ministry will shortlist eligible bidders and agree a shareholder structure.

“The procedure is due to go through nine stages, the first being an invitation to potential investors,” Petkova said.

“If all goes well, in one year we (will)... start to work on the financing and the structuring.”

Petkova said large electricity consumers would also be eligible to bid for minority stakes or electricity purchase contracts.

Critics of the project, first launched in 1981, allege it has been a vehicle for corruption for decades and say the investment does not justify the benefits.

$1 = 0.8706 euros Reporting by Angel Krasimirov and Tsvetelia Tsolova; editing by John Stonestreet

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