Russia's Atomstroyexport, a branch of the state-owned corporation Rosatom, has filed a claim for 58 million euros against Bulgaria's National Electric Company (NEK) over delayed payments for work on two nuclear reactors, RIA Novosti reported yesterday (21 July).
Atomstroyexport accuses Bulgaria of failing to respect the terms of its contract for work completed before construction of a 1,000 megawatt reactor was halted in April.
The company was quoted as saying that it had brought the case to the Paris-based ICC International Court of Arbitration because the payment delays could cause problems with tax authorities and creditors at home.
Asked by Dnevnik to comment, NEK representatives and Bulgaria's energy ministry said they first needed to be officially informed about the claim.
A governemt official was quoted as saying that if Russia had indeed filed a court claim, Bulgaria would do the same for a larger amount.
Japan's nuclear disaster increased pressure on Bulgaria from environmentalists and lobby groups to abandon the project, which they say will be built near an earthquake-prone area and will be too expensive, Reuters recalls.
At the beginning of July, Sofia announced that it was halting work on the Belene plant until September, heralding an additional three-month delay, to review safety issues and clarify the conditions of Russian funding for the project.
Bulgaria contracted Atomstroyexport back in 2006, but the project has stalled over price disputes with Moscow and funding problems. Russia has said construction will cost 6.3 billion euros, while Sofia says it should not exceed five billion.
In 2010, Moscow proposed to extend a loan to keep the project rolling. But Sofia rejected the offer, saying it would focus on finding a strategic investor.
The Bulgarian government's allies in Brussels and Washington have warned that the project will deepen Bulgaria's energy dependence on Russia, which already controls its only oil refinery and provides almost 100 percent of its natural gas.