The Bulgarian Government has started constructing Unit 7 of the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant using US technology that has never before been operational in Europe.

Westinghouse, the US nuclear company, will supply the technology for which the Bulgarian government initially spent €250m (Lv488.96m), according to Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov. Westinghouse wants to access the wider European market through the Bulgarian project.

News about the partnership came after in September, the government in Sofia announced a 32.5% increase in FDI in the first seven months of 2023.

Denkov said: “The state company responsible for the project will receive €250m. The company will start negotiations with the companies that have to build the 7th power unit of the power plant. The deadline for the completion of the project is 2033.”

Energy Minister Rumen Radev must now select a contractor that uses the AP1000 technology from Westinghouse to design, construct and commission the new power unit. The Cabinet insisted the “final contract with the selected company and with the supplier of the AP1000 technology must be drawn up under the conditions of a fixed price and execution period”.

Globally, there are currently only two operating nuclear power plants using Westinghouse’s AP1000 technology – one in the US and one in China. The company is currently involved in a nuclear power construction project in Poland, which is not yet operational.

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The preparations of Unit 8 at Kozloduy have also been approved, with the aim that it will be completed “two to three years after the first one”.

Denkov highlighted that the 2,300MW capacity of the two new units would exceed the 1,760MW capacity of the closed first four units.

In 1966, Bulgaria signed an agreement with the Soviet Union to construct four units of VVER-440 model reactors at the Kozloduy plant near the Danube river’s border with Romania. As part of EU accession negotiations, Bulgaria committed to closing Kozloduy 1 and 2 by the end of 2002 and units 3 and 4 by the end of 2006. The European Commission (EC) had classified the units as non-upgradable. After complying with the EC’s requests, Bulgaria joined the EU in January 2007.

The government signed a ten-year deal with Westinghouse in November 2022 to supply fuel for Kozloduy 5, after an alternative to Russian fuel was sought. In January 2023, the government voted in favour of a draft decision asking ministers to negotiate with the US Government for the new Westinghouse AP1000 unit at Kozloduy.

Nuclear power in Bulgaria currently generates around one-third of the country’s electricity.