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Bulgaria signs nuclear cooperation MoU with the US

Bulgaria signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on strategic cooperation in civil nuclear power with the US. The agreement comes after Bulgaria stated to consider US technology for its new Kozloduy nuclear reactor.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, who attended the signing of the documents said that the US proposed to sign an MoU in June 2020. He also underlined that the US is an important strategic partner of Bulgaria in the energy sector and expressed Bulgaria’s desire to use a safer, later-generation technology and to achieve nuclear fuel diversification, which will play a key role for national, regional and European energy security.

In the context of the accelerated progress of the European Green Deal, targeting EU climate neutrality by 2050, Prime Minister Borissov noted that nuclear power is one of the greener and cleaner energies and the goals of energy transition cannot be implemented without nuclear energy.

The Memorandum will promote bilateral cooperation in new secure civil nuclear power technologies that are developed by the US. Energy Minister Temenuzhka Petkova pointed out that the civil nuclear energy memorandum will not only give a fresh impetus and provide a solid foundation for future bilateral energy cooperation with the US but will also contribute to achieving diversification of energy sources, a key priority for the country.

Prime Minister Borissov underlined that Bulgaria already has genuine diversification of natural gas as a strategic input. He cited the swift purchase of a 20 per cent shareholding in the liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal at Alexandroupolis and the construction at a full swing of the Greece-Bulgaria gas interconnector.

US Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation Christopher A. Ford stressed the importance of the two countries’ strategic partnership for national energy security and energy source diversification and appreciated all efforts that Bulgaria is making to diversify supplies.

Bulgaria’s two operating Russian-designed VVER nuclear reactors at Kozloduy generate about one-third of the country’s electricity. On 14 October, Bulgaria’s government gave state-owned energy company Bulgarian Energy Holding (BEH) a mandate to start talks with US companies that develop nuclear technologies to study the options for the building of a new reactor on site. This followed Prime Minister Borissov’s visit to the Kozoduy nuclear power plant, where he stated that a new reactor at the site should be based on US technology.

Simultaneously, the country’s government is seeking investment in a 2000 megawatts (MW) nuclear power plant at Belene in Northern Bulgaria, which pertains the construction of two 1,000 MW units, each using the Russian design. In June, Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom has agreed to cooperate with France’s Framatome and US General Electric Steam Power in the process to select a strategic investor for the Belene project. Energy Minister Petkova stressed that the Belene project would go ahead regardless of developments at Kozloduy because Bulgaria will have to start a gradual phasing out of its coal-fired power plants after 2030.

Earlier this year the US announced a comprehensive Strategy to Restore American Nuclear Energy Leadership, which sent an important message to Central-Eastern European countries as well. Since the US inked a deal on civil nuclear cooperation with Poland and just recently Washington signed a draft cooperation agreement with Romania for the refurbishment of one nuclear power reactor and the construction of two more at the Cernavoda nuclear power plant, signalling that the US is progressing its policy to extend its influence in the energy sector of the CEE region.

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