Bulgaria’s Minister of Energy, Rumen Radev, and French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire have signed an agreement to establish bilateral cooperation in nuclear energy, including work on small modular reactors, development of a European supply chain and areas of nuclear construction programmes.

The two countries are involved in the EU Alliance on nuclear energy, which seeks to establish bilateral cooperation in nuclear energy construction across the bloc.

According to World Nuclear News, the French Economy Ministry said: “This cooperation will concern, among other things, the nuclear construction programmes envisaged in the two countries, the analysis of new technologies such as small modular reactors or advanced technology reactors, the development of a European supply chain, the fuel cycle, nuclear power and the strengthening of nuclear training courses within the two countries.”

The agreement “promotes the participation of companies from both countries in new projects, management of aging and long-term operation, dismantling and decommissioning of nuclear installations and in particular nuclear reactors”.

Earlier this month, the US also signed an agreement with Bulgaria to help the nation develop its nuclear industry, including assistance building new units at the Kozloduy nuclear power plant. The first four units of the Kozloduy plant were Soviet VVER-440 model reactors constructed in 1966. As part of EU accession negotiations, Bulgaria committed to closing the four units by the end of 2006 after the European Commission labelled them non-upgradable. Units 5 and 6 have VVER-1000 reactors that were connected to the grid in 1987 and 1991, respectively. Both units will operate for a further 30–60 years, having undergone refurbishment and life extension programmes.

In October last year, the Bulgarian Government started constructing unit 7 of the Kozloduy nuclear power plant using Westinghouse AP1000 reactor technology that had never before been operational in Europe. Westinghouse hopes to access the wider European market through the Bulgaria project.

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Following a competitive application process involving five companies, last week South Korea’s Hyundai Engineering & Construction was selected to construct and commission the two new Westinghouse AP1000 units at Kozloduy.