Scientists at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (BAS) on 16 November recommended continuing construction of the Belene nuclear power plant.
"The Belene NPP construction project is viable," said Professor Alexander Tasev, head of a scientific group that conducted a technical, economic and legal analysis of the project. "Our forecast shows that after 2030 there will be a shortage of energy in the country, a shortage of about 2GWe, which can be compensated by a new nuclear plant."
He noted that the NPP would be profitable given certain financial parameters. Investments in the project should not exceed €10.5bn ($12.4bn), and interest on loans raised should not be more than 4.5%. The experts also recommended direct involvement of the state in the construction of the station as one of the investors. BAS experts calculated that the Belene electricity price would be between €57 and €84 per megawatt hours, which is twice as the price of power from the Kozloduy NPP.
"The BGN3bn ($1.8bn) already invested in the project should be put to work. On the basis of the BAS report, we must take a coordinated decision with all parties, as the new generations of our citizens will be responsible for the financial obligations for this project," said Energy Minister Temenuzhka Petkova. The Ministry of Energy will offer the analysis for discussion and hope within a year to reach a consensus decision.
The Belene project was first started in the 1980s but abandoned following the collapse of the USSR. It was resurrected in 2002, and in 2006 Russia’s Atomstroyexport won an international tender to build the two-unit plant. In 2008, Bulgaria signed a contract for the design, construction and commissioning of two Russian VVER-1000 reactors at Belene. However, the project was cancelled in 2012, following a change of government. Rosatom in October said it is ready to invest in the Belene project if it is revived.
The 1000-page BAS report considers three scenarios for the development of the Bulgarian economy by 2030. The first scenario forecasts almost no change with economic growth of 2.5-3% and no significant change in electricity consumption. The second scenario projects a 3-4% growth and a 25% increase in electricity consumption. The third scenario envisages growth of between 3.5-6%.
"Without tighter decarbonisation requirements and stricter environmental rules for fewer harmful emissions Bulgaria's generating capacities could continue to operate until 2040," said Tassev. Currently, there is overproduction of electricity in Bulgaria, but after 2040 this will end, according to Tassev. Plus, between 2047 and 2050 the reactors at Kozloduy will shut down.
The BAS report also looked at a scenario with stricter decarbonisation requirements, and in those circumstances, Bulgaria will need new generating capacities after 2035. Moreover, if the European Commission continues along the road of green energy, Europe would need new generating capacity around 2030.
The report found that under most scenarios the Balkan region, excluding Bulgaria, would need at least 1500MWe of new capacity after 2030, while Bulgaria alone would need up to 1650MWe of generation including baseload capacity of 420-1670MWe. Most of Bulgaria’s coal-fired power stations are expected to close after 2030-2035.
Photo: Visualisation of the Belene project from 2008