The Bulgarian Energy Holding (BEH) and Westinghouse have signed a cooperation memorandum under which the US energy giant commits to helping extend the life of Units 5 and 6 of Bulgaria's Kozloduy NPP.
The document between BEH and Westinghouse Electric Company LLC (entitled "Memorandum of Understanding for the Studying of Cooperation Opportunities in Nuclear Energy") was signed Monday at the Council of Ministers in the presence of Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, Economy Minister Traicho Traikov, US Ambassador James Warlick, and Westinghouse President for EMEA Anders Jackson.
This is the second cooperation agreement with an international nuclear energy giant that the Borisov government strikes in two months after signing a memorandum of cooperation with French corporation Areva in April 2011.
The BEH-Westinghouse memorandum provides for cooperation with respected to the planned modernization to extend the life of the 1000-MW Units 5 and 6 of the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant, the only Bulgarian NPP, whose 440-MW Units 1-4 were shut down in 2002-2006 as part of Bulgaria's EU accession negotiations.
In the fall of 2010, Bulgaria's Economy Minister explained that the license of Unit 5 of the Kozloduy plant expires in 2017, and of Unit 6 - in 2019, but that the government will take measures to extend their life.
In November 2010, the newly-appointed CEO of the Kozloduy NPP Kostadin Dimitrov forecast that the life of the two reactors will be extended by 20 years. Thus, Bulgaria's potential arrangements
Two weeks ago, Kozloduy NPP CEO Kostadin Dimitrov explained that the extension procedure should be completed by 2016-2017, and that it will cost about BGN 100 M.
In addition to the fate of the Kozloduy reactors, Bulgaria's agreement with Westinghouse also focuses on the use, storage, and recycling of nuclear fuel, and, potentially, projects for the construction of new nuclear facilities in Bulgaria. The latter clauses apparently refer to the government's intention to look into the possibilities for building a seventh reactor at Kozloduy just as it is haggling with Russia's Rosatom over the delayed construction of the Belene NPP.
"Two months ago we signed a cooperation deal with the largest European nuclear company Areva. We have inherited a contract with the Russian company Rosatom as well. We are doing all we can in order to preserve Units 5 and 6. There are enormous risks for them. Our goal is to extend their life at least until 2030," Prime Minister Borisov stated at the signing ceremony.
"We can thus have a choice from among these three companies – of course, after tenders – also when it comes to the construction of Unit 7 of Kozloduy. Different countries view nuclear energy differently. We have placed an emphasis on security first, then on price, efficiency, and diversification. I am glad that we are giving an equal start to our Euro-Atlantic partners to participate in the modernization, construction, and emphasis of our facilities in order to reach the maximum safety levels that the EU requires," he declared.
BEH and Westinghouse will set up a working group in order to implement the provisions of the memorandum, explained BEH CEO Yordan Georgiev, who also said the document has laid the groundwork for a crucial partnership on safety and nuclear potential for Bulgaria. In his words, the cooperation with Westinghouse will make the estimates for extending the life of Units 5 and 6 of Kozloduy "more objective".
"The Kozloduy NPP is the most inspected nuclear plant in the world. Units 5 and 6 are in a very good technical position. I don't rule out the possibility that Units 3 and 4 might be better than some of operational nuclear facilities around the world," said in turn Bulgarian Minister of Economy, Energy, and Tourism Traicho Traikov.
According to Westinghouse President for EMEA Anders Jackson, Westinghouse can offer Bulgaria various solutions in accordance with its experience in areas such as the delivery of nuclear fuel and the storage of used fuel.
"Germany's decision to give up on nuclear energy was not well thought through, and was rash. There are ways to modernize working NPPs so that they can be safe. This decision will lead to an increased need to construct new nuclear capacities elsewhere," Jackson commented in Sofia.
As far as the modernization of Units 5 and 6 of Kozloduy, Jackson explained that his company will have the role of a subcontractor that he hopes will be fulfilled successfully.
"With respect to our continuing work in Bulgaria, I think that this memorandum lays the foundation for expanding our activity," said the senior Westinghouse executive adding that Monday is "a big day" for both Bulgaria and Westinghouse.
Bulgaria's government has had intensive contacts with Westinghouse since the spring of 2010 with the supplies of nuclear fuel (Bulgaria currently gets all of its fuel from Russia), the modernization of the Kozloduy plant, and the construction of new units being the major issues on the agenda.
Westinghouse has already presented to the Bulgarian government the parameters of its AP 1000 third-generation reactor.