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Bulgaria needs investments for second nuclear plant

National Electricity Company in Bulgaria invited potential strategic investors to acquire a share in a new nuclear power plant project in the country's northern part.

The state-owned electricity company (NEK) said in a statement it was looking for investors for an up to 49 percent stake in the Belene Power Company, which will be set up to own and operate the nuclear power plant. NEK will hold a stake of at least 51 percent in it.

Bids are expected from Enel, E.ON Energie, CEZ and Russia's Gazprom, all of which have previously expressed interest in the project.

Last year, Russia's Atomstroyexport won a euro4 billion (US$5.4 billion) deal to build two 1,000 megawatt reactors at the Balkan country's second nuclear power plant.

Bulgaria's government invested more than US$1 billion (euro740 million) in the project to build two nuclear units at the Danube port of Belene, 250 kilometers (155 miles) northeast of Sofia, but froze it in 1990 after environmentalists said it could pose a safety risk.

The project was revived to compensate for the closure of two aging units at the country's only nuclear plant in Kozlodui, which the Balkan country agreed to shut this year under its entry treaty with the European Union. Bulgaria joined the EU in January.

The construction of the Belene plant's first unit is expected to begin in 2008 and to be completed by January 2014. The second unit is scheduled to become operational a year later.

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