The profit of Belene NPP would have been 1 to 3

Stanislav Georgiev

Stanislav Georgiev

Does nuclear energy, which is particularly relevant at the moment, figure in the National Plan for Recovery and Sustainability?
There is nothing in it about nuclear energy and no funds are provided for the construction of new nuclear power plants. In 2012, when the Belene 1 and 2 project was frozen, the highest estimate of the possible cost of this project prepared by the EBRD was EUR 12.5 billion. If these two units were built at this cost and were in operation now, they would be operating at a 1:3 profit. Unfortunately, nuclear power, not only in our country but all over the world, is subject to political decisions. The last officially adopted document as a strategy for the development of Energy in Bulgaria is from 2011, and it talks about the construction of a new nuclear power of 2000 MB, without specific terms and location.

How important is nuclear power for Bulgaria at the moment?
With the current surge in electricity prices, the topic of nuclear power has become relevant again. High electricity prices are the result of our entry into the common European energy market. With European exchange prices of BGN 400-450/MWh, there is no way for us to sell at BGN 180-200/MWh – this is still the price for individual consumers of electricity, but it will be relevant until the end of 2021 d. Industrial consumers already pay exchange prices for electricity. In the second half of 2021, the trend related to the high stock exchange prices of electricity was very clearly outlined, one of the reasons for this being the high fees that Bulgaria is obliged to pay for the emissions accumulated from the operation of the thermal plants in our country. Therefore, at the beginning of 2021, our tests were not working – simply the cost of their production was higher than the stock market prices. However, when we joined the common electricity system of the EC and the common energy exchange and the prices of electricity jumped to BGN 400-450/MWh, the production of electricity from thermal power plants became profitable and they were put into operation. At the moment, the authorities are thinking about how to compensate for the losses of industrial users. One of the ideas of the green deal is the production of hydrogen and its subsequent use again in energy, industry, and transport. A good idea, perhaps, because it has not yet been implemented industrially anywhere. But let’s assume that this is a fact – then comes the question of how to provide the base generating capacities necessary for its production, bearing in mind that they must be emission-free. I specify that wind and solar parks are not base capacities. We open a bracket here to emphasize that the future of energy is the joint use of all types of renewable power together with nuclear plants. What can actually be built is only nuclear power – that is industrially mastered at the moment by humanity. Bulgaria needs 4,000 MB – of new nuclear units – Belene NPP – 1 and 2 and 7 and 8 units of the Kozloduy NPP (assuming that we will close about 4,000 MW of thermal power plants). According to the latest government announcement, our tets will work until the 2040s. I.e. we have 18 years to build and commission these new nuclear units. According to the readiness of these projects, they can be built: 8-10 years will be needed for the Belene 1 and 2 project and about 15 years for the 7 and 8 block project in Kozloduy. Let’s not forget, moreover, the intention of the car giants after 2035 to produce only electric cars. If one day we all drive electric vehicles in Bulgaria, we will need an additional 2000 MW of base power on a daily basis. The task for Bulgaria may become one with many unknowns if Europe’s green deal is implemented.

How expensive will the electricity from the Belene NPP be?
In the period 2006-2012, while the Belene project was developing, its opponents put forward three reasons:

  • Impossibility of realizing the output of the future plant on the real energy market after its commissioning (2019), due to high investment costs and low prices of energy on the stock market;
  • High seismic risk at the site;
  • Russian project – we are entering the political wilderness…

What became real? If this plant were built and operating now at these investment costs, it would currently be offering “green” energy at a 1:3 profit on the electricity exchange market. Let’s not speculate on the profit that Kozloduy 5 and 6 is currently making – that’s another topic. The seismicity of the Belene NPP has not been compromised either. The technical design of Belene 1 and 2 took into account the characteristics of the site and the facilities in these blocks can withstand a seismic load of the order of 0.24 g (for comparison, the blocks in Kozloduy were designed for a seismic load of the order of 0.2 g.) The project also passed through the post-Fukushima inspection of all nuclear facilities in the world by the IAEA. The third “against” the Belene NPP is also false – that it is a Russian project – only the equipment on the first circuit would be Russian, and all the equipment in the turbine hall, as well as the automation and the electrical part, were to be supplied by the companies General Electric and the French Framatome.
I hope that at these current electricity prices (which will not go down, they will only go up), our future rulers realize not only that we will need 4000 MB of new nuclear power, but that it must be entirely state – and not owned by foreign investors. Our country has the necessary financial resources to build these facilities – it’s a matter of strategy and making important political decisions that will enable the Bulgarian electric system to be independent, to produce cheap electric energy, to be “green” and also very important – predictable for users for the next 60-80 years.