GDF Suez drops Bulgarian nuclear reactor plan

Thursday, February 19, 2009

PARIS, Feb 18 (Reuters) - French utility GDF Suez has decided to pull out of Bulgaria's planned atomic power plant of Belene to focus on its other nuclear projects, a company spokesman said on Wednesday. GDF Suez's Belgian subsidiary Electrabel had been in talks to take part in German utility RWE's 49-percent stake in Bulgaria's 4 billion euro plant.

The Balkan country is building the 2,000 megawatt plant to help it regain its position as a major exporter in Southeast Europe and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"We have decided not to pursue with this project," a GDF Suez spokesman told Reuters. "We are establishing our strategic priorities among the different projects in the pipeline," he said.

GDF Suez is trying to grab a share of the nuclear revival with plans to take part in the second and possibly the third new-generation French nuclear reactors as well as in nuclear power projects in Britain, Romania and in Abu Dhabi.

RWE confirmed it had not reached an agrement with GDF Suez but said it would continue to develop the project as planned.

"Financial, technical, economic and organisation questions are in focus and safety of course comes first in all our considerations," a RWE spokesman told Reuters.

Sources familiar with the Bulgarian nuclear project have said the global financial crisis and tighter liquidity have made raising funding extremely difficult and that it was likely the plant's starting date would go beyond the planned 2013-2014.

RWE said in December that the crisis would pose a challenge to raising funds needed for the plant, but remained optimistic that banks would finance Belene.

Bulgaria lost its position as a leading power exporter in the Balkans after shutting older Soviet reactors at its Kozloduy nuclear power plant as a condition for joining the European Union in January 2007.

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