SOFIA, BULGARIA: Bulgaria's nuclear energy watchdog greenlighted on Friday an extension of the lifespan of one of two Soviet-built reactors at the country's sole nuclear power plant.
The 1,000-megawatt unit in Kozloduy was built in 1987 and its operating licence was due to expire on November 5.
But the BNRA nuclear regulator agreed to extend the permit by another 10 years after extensive equipment checks by Russian and French experts.
"Our nuclear power plant is operating in line with the highest safety standards and can work for 30 more years," Energy Minister Temenuzhka Petkova said in Sofia.
Kozloduy's other unit is also currently undergoing the same upgrades, with the aim to allow it to remain in operation beyond its 2021 deadline.
The upgrades of both reactors cost 674 million leva (345 million euros, 400 million dollars), Kozloduy chief executive Ivan Andreev said.
The plant on the Danube produces about 33 percent of Bulgaria's electricity, even after shutting its four smaller 440-megawatt units ahead of Bulgaria's EU accession in 2007.
In order to ensure continuity of nuclear power, Bulgaria has long planned to build a second twin-reactor plant at Belene, also on the Danube.
It had contracted Russia's Atomstroyexport to build it before deciding to drop the project in 2012 after failing to raise sufficient foreign investment.
The move angered Russia, leading to a series of court claims that forced Bulgaria to buy the two reactors already produced by Atomstroyexport.
Sofia, which already invested over 3.5 billion leva (1.8 billion euros, 2.0 billion dollars), has yet to decide whether to try to sell the equipment or find funds to revive the project.