Nuclear fever in Southeastern Europe

Posted in Energy Security , Other | 28-Aug-08 | Author: Ioannis Michaletos

The Southeastern European states are adapting fast in the nuclear renaissance era by presenting a set of projects aiming at curbing C02 emissions and increasing energy security and diversification for their markets. For the moment most of the countries in the region have relayed plans or have actually proceeded for the commission of nuclear plants to international bidders.


On July 2006 Turkey signed a new energy bill that opened the door for nuclear energy production. Due to the opposition between the incumbent government (Islamists) and the ex-President (Secularist) the Law came into force only in October 2007 and it provides Turkey the ability to construct nuclear plants that will produce up to 5,000 MW by 2012.

The plan calls for the establishment of three factories and the first round of international bidding started in April 2008. The amount to be contested for is estimated at 7.5 billion USD. Nevertheless the interest hasn’t been great so far.

Turkey is a land characterized by its seismic nature with frequent catastrophic quakes every decade or so and that might explain the hesitation by investors.

For the time being the Canadian company SNC Group has expressed interest in cooperation with the Turkish conglomerate Sabanci Holdings. A well-known figure of the Turkish energy market, Mr. Hackman stated in Reuters last year that “Ten years will be needed before the whole pan goes into work, therefore the projection for 2012 is not realistic”.

The Turkish Minister for Energy has relayed to the local press that his government is taking into account all the environmental conditions necessary for the viability of the project and the well-being of the regions where the plants will operate. The international corporations though are more inclined into investing in countries that have already a developed nuclear infrastructure such as the neighboring Bulgaria that is why the Turkish project may have to wait for the moment.


Bulgaria is the most advanced country in a regional level concerning the use of nuclear energy. On December 2007 the European Union gave its go ahead for the construction of a new 2,000 MW nuclear site in the town of Belene in the North of the country, equipped with two 1,000 MW generators.

Bulgaria was forced due to heavy pressure from Brussels to close down its older factory in the Kosloduy area that had a 1,760 MW capacity and operated under strained conditions due to fears of security deficit.

The new plant will cost 4 billion Euros and have a predicted life span of 60 years. Bulgaria has already applied for a 600 million loan by the European Investment Bank. According to the statements made by the Minister of Economy Dimitrof, “The cost of energy produced will amount to 0.036-0.037 Euros per KW/h”. The generators to be used will be the WER type and a new mode the V-466 who hasn’t been installed to a European site yet. The Bulgarian state electricity company has informed that “Atomostroyexport is going to use the V-466 in nuclear plants that are currently being constructed in India and China”.

Sofia has already commissioned the Russian Atomstroyexport which is owned 84% by Gazprom to lead the project. Areva and Siemens will manage subcontracting sectors of the whole scheme. Although Bulgaria seems to lessen its dependence from Russian gas imports through the project, it seems that the Russian influence remains the same in all respects but the material used.

For that reason the Bulgarian government has already stated that 51% of the company that will manage the nuclear plant will be owned by NEK which is the state electricity company. The rest percentage is presently hotly contested by RWE, and Electrabel.

The plant is estimated to be fully operational by 2015 the latest and in the meantime there might be a second construction on the works. The Bulgarian PM on the 24th of June 2008 announced that his government intends of developing a new nuclear station in the Kosloduy region with a 1,000 MW capacity. Should both projects are completed, Bulgaria will possibly become a strong electricity exporter in the wider Southeastern European region and it will further develop its trade with Greece that regularly imports power from there due to the rising needs of its market that are adding up 4.5% a year.


Romania produces approximately 20% of its electricity needs by the Cernavoda nuclear plant that has two generators with a 1,410 MW capacity. The second generator became fully operational on October 2007.

The technology used is the Canadian CANDU and the second generator was build with the Italian partnership of the ANSALDO Company.

The government has as an immediate plan, the development of another two nuclear generators of a total cost some 2.5 billion Euros and with a capacity of 750 MW each. The state through the Societatea Nationala Nuclearelectrica (SNN) will control 51%, whilst the rest will be handed to a joint venture by the international partners, Enel, Suez/Electrabel, RWE Power, CEZ, Iberdrola and Arcelor-Mittal

According to the planning the new generators will be functional by 2014, and they will provide approximately 40% of the country’s electricity production.

It is widely rumored that Romania has as a long-term plan the development of nuclear energy so as to cover more than 50% of its electricity needs by 2020. Already a March 2008 statement by the head of SNN informed that “Up to four more units by 2020 at a new site are being proposed”


Late November 2007 the Albanian PM Sali Berisha announced during a visit of the ex-Italian PM Prondi, the intention of his country to cooperate with Italy in order to develop a nuclear plant. The country is heavily dependent for its rising needs of hydropower installations which face issues of chronic use and underinvestment and there is dire need for new electricity sources due to the frequent power cuts.

The Italian side is seriously considering into investing in the Albanian market and the Mr. Konti of ENEL stated on the 24th of June 2008 that “Likely a factory using coal is going to be constructed in Albania and other plans are being considered”. In parallel the Albanian PM assured the public of his country that “Negotiations have started with IEA regarding the viability of a nuclear plant in the future and the environmental impact to be assessed for”. The most likely region is the plan goes ahead is the port of Durres in the North of the country

On the other hand, Ulrik Stridbaek, Senior Policy Advisor Electricity Markets of the International Energy Agency (IEA), notes that ‘relatively small countries such as Albania do not have the capability to develop nuclear power plants. They simply do not have the know-how and cannot guarantee adequate safety conditions.’

The rising energy needs of the Southeastern European states and the rising oil price index have brought to surface several ambitious plans that should they proceed they will transform the regional markets and attract much international attention and investment capital. For the moment the only project to go ahead is the Belene one with the rest being discussed and projected.