Bulgaria, U.S. partner on nuclear program

February 16, 2024, 7:01AMNuclear News
Assistant energy secretary for international affairs Andrew Light (seated, left) and Bulgarian energy minister Rumen Radev (seated, right) sign the new agreement in Bulgaria. (Photo: U.S. Embassy in Bulgaria)

Officials from the United States and Bulgaria inked a deal this week to cooperate as Bulgaria further develops its civil nuclear power program.

A working group will explore plans to design, construct, and commission two new units at Bulgaria’s Kozloduy nuclear power plant. The two countries will also “explore collaboration on research and training programs and developing Bulgaria's nuclear supply chain resilience,” according to reports.

Sparse details: The Bulgarian News Agency quoted the country’s minister of energy, Rumen Radev, as saying, “The financial framework for the construction of Units 7 and 8 at Kozloduy should not exceed 14 billion [he did not specify if this is U.S. dollars or euros]. . . . The idea is to implement the project entirely on public funds with up to 25–30 percent self-financing. The rest is to be loan-financed for part of which State guarantees will be furnished.”

Five companies have expressed a formal interest in construction of the two new Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at Kozloduy. Bulgaria’s council of ministers gave approval in October 2023 for the new reactors, and a target was set to complete the first unit by 2033, with the second unit to follow in two or three years.

About the plant: Kozloduy-5 and -6 feature VVER-1000 reactors that were connected to the grid in 1987 and 1991, respectively. Both units have been through refurbishment and life extension programs in order to operate for a further 30 to 60 years.

Kozloduy Units 1–4 were VVER-440 models, which the European Commission had classified as nonupgradeable. Bulgaria agreed to shut them down during negotiations to join the European Union in 2007.

Other agreements: In July 2023, Bulgaria signed a similar partnership agreement with Ukraine to promote “cooperation in all stages of the nuclear fuel cycle, activities, and services related to the life extension of nuclear facilities in order to improve safety and/or performance.”

Also in the summer of 2023, Bulgarian and Ukrainian firms signed agreements with U.S.-based Westinghouse Electric Company. In Bulgaria, Westinghouse signed on to do the front-end engineering and design work for an AP1000 reactor at Kozloduy.

This new intergovernmental agreement between the U.S. and Bulgaria builds on the 2020 memorandum of understanding between the two countries and opens the door for collaboration on other forms of clean energy.

Quotable: On February 13, the agreement was signed by Radev and Andrew Light, U.S. assistant secretary of energy for international affairs. “This agreement will play a vital role in promoting energy security and decarbonization for Bulgaria and the region,” said Light. “Together we will support Bulgaria’s efforts to strengthen all aspects of its civil nuclear power program, including nuclear safety and security, nuclear fuel supply, and nuclear project development.”

Radev said, “For us, a very important aspect is cooperation in the field of training and the exchange of experience, the exchange of personnel and knowledge, and last but not least, the development of a supply chain in which many Bulgarian companies are actively involved.”

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