[NUCLEAR] RWE, Electrabel file binding offers for stake in Bulgarian nuclear power plant

German power giant RWE and Belgian utility Electrabel have made binding offers to help finance and run a new nuclear plant in Bulgaria by acquiring a 49-percent stake in the operation, the Bulgarian government said Monday.

"Both companies filed their preliminary binding offers within the requested deadline that expired Monday," the economy and energy ministry said in a statement.

It added that the offers would now be reviewed and the Bulgarian state-owned National Electricity Company (NEC) would then proceed to negotiations with the two companies to pick the winning bid.

But the energy ministry did not specify when the strategic investor for the 2,000-magawatt facility in Belene on the Danube would be chosen.

RWE and Electrabel were shortlisted in March from a total of six companies interested in acquiring a minority stake in the Belene Power Company, which will finance and run the 4.0-billion-euro (6.2-billion-dollar) plant.

NEC has also selected French bank BNP Paribas as a structuring bank to lead the raising and management of funds for the long-stalled two-reactor plant, which is to be built by Russian company Atomstroyexport.

The first of the plant's 1,000-magawatt reactors is expected to be operational by January 2014 and the second a year later.

Bulgaria renewed plans to build the Belene plant in 2005 to compensate for an expected downturn in its energy exports after the closure in late 2006 of four of six operational reactors at its single nuclear power plant at Kozloduy. The country used to be one of the Balkans' main exporters of energy, supplying some 7.8 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity abroad in 2006.

But it slashed exports after agreeing to close the reactors ahead of its entry into the European Union on January 1, 2007.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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