Банкеръ Weekly

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BARGAINING FOR SMALL UNITS AT KOZLODOUI N-PLANT BEGINS

The Nuclear Power Plant of Kozlodoui was again in the centre of public discussions during the week. The lead was given by President Purvanov, who gathered last weekend representatives of the executive and of the legislative power with the single aim of consolidating Bulgaria's position on the N-plant issue. Three options (each accompanied by numerous pros and cons) for Kozlodoui's future were publicly announced as a result.The mission of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) started its five-day check of the safety of Kozlodoui's units III and IV on June 24. This is the second inspection by IAEA in the N-plant's history. The experts from the international agency checked both the operational safety and the project state of Kozlodoui on the basis of documents (totalling 700 pages) and immediate impressions, gathered on the site. Each of the members of IAEA's mission is an expert in his respective country (France, Germany, the USA, the Czech Republic, Turkey and Brazil are represented) and is experienced in operating N-plants. IAEA's experts (who had participated in a number of inspections) had the opportunity to see and assess the operation of each of Kozlodoui's units and of their various details. They got acquainted as well with the professional skill and qualification of the Bulgarian N-plant's personnel. Preliminary results give us sufficient grounds to hope that the agency's assessment will be positive, Assoc. Prof. Emil Vapirev, Chairman of the Committee for Peaceful Use of Atomic Energy (CPUAE), predicted. We cannot expect the mission to come out with a categorical stand about Kozlodoui's small units, but the agency will extend a technical opinion, Mr. Vapirev added.The optimism of CPUAE's head is based on the large-scale modernization of its small units under the programme for increasing their nuclear safety and radiation protection. The cost of the upgrade totalled USD200MN and was implemented in three stages. The result in the end of each stage was appraised by prestigious international institutions and by experts from well-known companies such as Germany's Siemens, the US Westinghouse, and the French Framatom. Their conclusion is that the small WWER-440 generators are in a good operational condition and their nuclear safety and radiation protection has been considerably improved and comply with internationally accepted levels.Several institutions of world fame are concurrently inspecting the units' metal casings and independently of each other say that generators I and II can operate safely not only till the year 2010 but until their resource is exhausted. The respective terms for operation of units III и IV are the years 2016 and 2018.The Bulgarian experts are adamant that the N-plant of Kozlodoui in the year 2002 is quite different (and has a higher degree of safety) as compared to the power station, part of which was unanimously written off at the G-7 Summit in Germany back in 1992.It would be good if the results of the completed IAEA mission are accompanied by the technical report of the European consortium Kozlodoui, with which the N-plant signed a contract a week ago for developing a joint programme for further modernization of units III and IV. The consortium includes Russia's Atomenergoexport (the manufacturer of all six Kozlodoui's units) and the transnational company Framatom (whose German division participated in the modernization of Kozlodoui's WWER-1000 units). Relicensing of generators III and IV would be most efficient. Both Bulgarian and foreign experts claim that after their upgrading, units II and IV have a new functional safety level, complying with that of the types of reactors, approved by the European Union. They are not anymore of the unsafe WWER-440 B type, but comply with WWER-440 B13 (the type used in Finland and Hungaray, to which nobody in Europe objects). But such statements are suitable for a scientific conference only. In nuclear power engineering the type of the generators is categorically defined by strictly fixed parametres. It should be confirmed first of all by the manufacturer of the two units (the Russian Atomenergoexport) and then comes the relicensing on the part of the national nuclear regulating body, CPUAE.While the problems facing Kozlodoui's units III and IV might be solved (if there is good will and synchronized efforts of all Bulgarian institutions), there is no money for the decommissioning of the N-plant's reactors I and II. According to publications, EUR500MN would be necessary for the purpose. The amount is tentative, but includes the evaluation of just 46 of all the 165 necessary operations. Bulgaria needs roughly EUR400MN more in order to proceed with the decommissioning of units I and II.Only EUR100MN from the EUR200MN, promised on signing the Kostov-Verheugen memorandum in 1999, is intended for the decommissioning of the first two reactors in Kozlodoui. However, EUR30MN of that amount ahs already been redirected to the Sofia central heating utility, and another EUR30MN has been already spent on other things. The balance of the two funds for the N-plant is even more desparate. They include a total of BGN300BN (about BGN150MN). According to data of teh Finance Minsitry, however, the N-plant of Kozlodoui has stopped servicing its liabilities to these funds. There could be hardly any proceeds into them without a tangible hike of the purchase price of electricity.An additional problem arises from the fact that not more than BGN35-40MN (up to EUR20MN) of the money, accumulated in the funds, could be spent for the two oldest units of the plant. And this is all the State has at its disposal. The lacking several hundred millions for the decommissioning of units I and II will be at the expense of the Treasury. During his visit to Sofia in end-April the EU Transport and Energy Commissioner Loyola de Palacio said that according to the EU estimates, the shut-down of Kozlodoui's units III and IV in the year 2006 would cost USD250MN.

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