Bulgarian officials say that a final decision on the winning bidder to build the E2 billion Belene nuclear station will be made in September 2006.

Russia’s Atomstroiexport and the Czech group Skodia Alliance are the two rival consortia bidding to construct the Belene plant, which is hoped to be operational by 2013.

However the project has faced many delays since it was first mooted in the early 1980s. Now however pressure from the EU for Bulgaria to close its other nuclear reactors on safety grounds has left the country facing a shortage of generating capacity. This has threatened the country’s role as one of the key power exporters in southeast Europe.

A special committee will make a recommendation on which group should build the plant to the National Electricity Distribution Company in September, the Sofia News Agency says.