Russian nuclear reactor vendor Atomstroyexport has been awarded the contract to build two 1000 MWe VVER (Russian-design PWR) units at Belene in northern Bulgaria, on the Danube, close to the border with Romania. The decision to award the contract to the Atomstroyexport consortium, which includes Areva NP, whose scope is expected to include I&C, was made by the board of state owned Bulgarian utility NEK (Natsionalna Elektricheska Kompania) EAD at a meeting on 30 October 2006. The reactors will be of a type designated V-466. An alternative offer submitted by a consortium led by Skoda, and including Westinghouse, also proposed 1000 MWe VVER reactors, but of the V-320 type. This proposal, ranked second, would have been based on the Temelin VVER plant in the Czech Republic, which also includes Westinghouse I&C. Two older V-320 units are already in operation in Bulgaria, Kozloduy units 5 and 6. The main advantages of the twin V-466 plant eventually chosen were said by NEK to be as follows:

• “Significant margins in safety, including secondary containment, four train safety channels and extended capacity of passive safety features.”

• “Lower risk of unforeseen extension of the construction schedule, of licensing complications, or of early necessity of safety related improvements.”

• “Use of the latest technologies, with longer operational life-time (60 years).”

According to NEK, the V-466 is a third generation reactor “recognised in the European Union”, which Bulgaria is scheduled to join as from January 2007.

The award essentially marks the intention of NEK to complete a VVER-1000 project at Belene, on which site development began as long ago as 1982. A number of facilities were built on the site (see photos) but construction work stopped over 15 years ago.

NEK says the committee set up to evaluate the Belene proposals was assisted in its 17 months of work by architect-engineer Parsons E&C Bulgaria and the financial consultant, Deloitte Central Europe Limited. Over 110 experts from eight countries were involved plus another 118 experts through an expert advisory group, including representatives of ministries, commercial entities, scientific and research institutes and non-governmental organisations, state agencies and local authorities.

During the process of examining an estimated more than 62 000 pages of offer documentation 1580 written questions were submitted to the two final candidates. NEK says “1840 negotiation positions” were agreed and recorded in 403 pages recording negotiation meetings. The report of the Evaluation Committee, prepared in accordance with the provisions of the Public Procurement Act, was in nine volumes, with more than 3500 pages.

According to NEK, “The offers were evaluated based on the criteria defined in the documentation for participation in the procurement procedure, current methodologies for technical and economic evaluations of bids for nuclear power plants developed by the International Atomic Energy Agency as well as specialised risk assessment software packages.”

The Bulgarian government gave the go-ahead in 2005 to restart work at Belene. Other reactors proposed, as well as VVERs, have included AP1000, EPR, SWR 1000 and Candu, one of which is operating in neighbouring Romania.

In addition to the two VVER-1000s operating at Kozloduy, there are also two VVER-440s, units 3 and 4, due to close by the end of this year as a condition of Bulgaria’s EU membership. Kozloduy units 1 and 2, also VVER-440s, are already closed down.

Facilities constructed at Belene site as part of the original project, which dates back to the early 1980s Facilities constructed at Belene site as part of the original project, which dates back to the early 1980s Facilities constructed at Belene site as part of the original project, which dates back to the early 1980s