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The Associated Press February 19, 2010, 1:39PM ET

Russia to fund nuclear plant in Bulgaria

Russia agreed Friday to put up to euro1.9 billion ($2.6 billion) for the construction of a stalled nuclear plant project in Bulgaria until a strategic investor is chosen and held out the possibility of taking a stake in the project.

Sergei Kiriyenko, CEO of the Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom, said after talks with Bulgarian officials that Russia would lend up to euro400 million ($540 million) this year and a further euro1.5 billion ($2.06 billion) in 2011 to keep the 2,000-megawatt project at Belene going.

"Freezing it now will be expensive as most of the equipment has already been produced and a lot has been invested to build the foundation of the plant," Kiriyenko told reporters. He added that Russia can if necessary take a stake.

"Part of the money will be invested on a temporary basis and the future investor will pay them back. The other part we are ready to invest in a stake, the volume of which is up to the Bulgarian government to decide," Kiriyenko said.

Construction of Bulgaria's second nuclear power plant, with two 1,000 MW Russian-made reactors, has been frozen for lack of funding.

Last year, Germany's RWE AG, selected as a strategic partner in a 49-51 joint venture with the National Electric Company to build and operate the facility, withdrew from the project.

Bulgaria already operates a 2000-megawatt nuclear power plant in Kozlodui.

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