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Bulgaria to launch construction of new nuclear plant on Sept 3

by Staff Writers
Sofia (AFP) Sept 1, 2008
Bulgaria will begin construction on Wednesday on its new 4.0-billion-euro (5.8-billion-dollar) nuclear power plant near the northern town of Belene, the government announced Monday.

"We will launch the Belene project on September 3 at noon," Economy and Energy Minister Petar Dimitrov said in Sofia, calling the future facility "one of the most important projects in the whole European Union."

Building work on the first of the plant's two 1,000-megawatt reactors, being led by Russian nuclear group Atomstroyexport, was expected to start in March 2009 and be completed in December 2013.

Work on the second reactor was to be launched in March 2010, making it operational in June 2014, Dimitrov added.

By end-September, Bulgaria's state-owned National Electricity Company (NEC) will also pick a strategic partner to take over a 49-percent stake in the project, he said.

NEC already shortlisted German power giant RWE and Belgian utility company Electrabel in March among six companies interested in acquiring a minority stake in the Belene Power Company, which will finance and run the plant.

NEC has also selected France's bank BNP Paribas to lead the raising and management of funds for the project, which is to be built by Atomstroyexport, with France's Areva and Germany's Siemens as subcontractors.

Bulgaria renewed plans in 2005 to build the long-stalled Belene plant to compensate for an expected downturn in its energy exports after the closure in late 2006 of four out of six operational reactors at its single nuclear power plant at Kozloduy.

Formerly one of the Balkans' main energy exporters, supplying 7.8 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity abroad in 2006, Bulgaria slashed exports to 4.5 million kilowatt-hours last year after agreeing to close the reactors ahead of its entry into the European Union on January 1, 2007.

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Australia reconsiders nuclear deal with Russia
Canberra (AFP) Sept 1, 2008
Australia is reconsidering a pact to sell uranium to Russia following its military push into Georgia, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith warned on Monday.

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