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Moscow hopes Russian cos. will win NPP tenders in Bulgaria - Lavrov

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Russia's foreign minister said Friday that Moscow hoped Russian companies would win tenders to build a new nuclear power plant in Bulgaria and modernize the country's only currently operating plant.

SOFIA, April 28 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's foreign minister said Friday that Moscow hoped Russian companies would win tenders to build a new nuclear power plant in Bulgaria and modernize the country's only currently operating plant.

The Balkan state wants to build a second nuclear power plant in Belene, 250 kilometers (about 150 miles) from Sofia, the capital, and modernize the Kozloduy NPP in the north of the country.

"Commodity turnover between our countries is growing, but we also want to develop investment cooperation," Sergei Lavrov said following talks with Bulgarian President Georgi Purvanov.

Russian nuclear power equipment and service export monopoly Atomstroiexport is bidding for the project, as is Czech company Skoda.

The Belene plant was being developed jointly with the Soviet Union until Bulgaria suspended work on the project in 1992.

The Kozloduy NPP was built in 1974. Its four reactors generate about 40% of the country's power output, part of which goes to Turkey. Two more reactors were shut down in 2002. Russia supplies nuclear fuel for the four reactors.

Modernizing the ageing Kozloduy plant is crucial for Bulgaria, which is seeking to join the European Union and has no oil or gas reserves. The EU says the facility, located two miles from the Danube River, does not meet modern environmental safety requirements.

Earlier this month, Bulgarian Economy and Energy Minister Rumen Ovcharov said Bulgaria was in talks with Gazprombank, a subsidiary of Russian energy giant Gazprom, on the bank's possible contribution to the share capital of the new NPP.

"We want the state to hold a 50% stake in the Belene NPP, while the remaining shares will be offered to investors," Ovcharov said. "We are in talks with Russian and European companies, including Gazprombank, on their participation in the NPP's share capital."

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