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Bulgaria strikes deal for new nuclear reactor

Bulgaria has approved a deal that could see a new nuclear reactor built on the Danube river by 2023. An incredibly touchy issue in the EU's poorest country, Bulgaria is looking to reduce its dependence on Russian energy.

Bulgaria's outgoing government signed an eleventh-hour deal on Friday with Westinghouse Electric Company that paves the way for the construction of a new reactor at the country's Kozloduy nuclear power plant.

The last-minute shareholder agreement is aimed at weaning the Balkan state off Russian nuclear fuel at a time when Moscow and Brussels are at loggerheads over the conflict in Ukraine.

The $5-billion (3.7-billion-euro) deal still requires the approval of Bulgaria's next government, to be voted in by a snap election in October.

Bulgaria, the EU's poorest member, is one of five states in the bloc - including the Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary and Slovakia - that relies on Russia for 100 percent of its nuclear fuel.

Westinghouse, the world's largest nuclear fuel producer and part of Japan's Toshiba group, signed on for a 30 percent stake in Kozloduy NPP - New Build, the company that will build the new units at the Kozloduy site on the Danube river.

Westinghouse's chief executive, Danny Roderick, flew to Sofia on Tuesday to consult with all of Bulgaria's political parties before the deal was signed.

The country's Socialist-led government resigned last Wednesday and is expected to be replaced by the main center-right opposition GERB party.

cjc/uhe (Reuters, AFP)

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