(Sofia) Bulgaria began using fuel from US giant Westinghouse on Monday at its only nuclear power plant in Kozloduy (north), a new step in reducing its dependence on Russian energy.

The Soviet-designed plant, which provides more than a third of the electricity consumed in the Balkan country, has so far been powered by Russian fuel. It has two units with a capacity of 1,000 megawatts each.

The oldest reactor, dating from 1987, was successfully connected to the electricity grid in the morning after loading “43 fuel assemblies, manufactured by Westinghouse”, the plant announced in a press release.

The transition process is expected to take four years.

With the same aim of “diversification of supplies”, the second reactor will be supplied with fuel from the French company Framatome from 2025, under an agreement concluded at the end of 2022.

Bulgaria, a member country of the EU and NATO, which before the Russian invasion of Ukraine depended almost entirely on Moscow for energy, has since strongly reoriented its strategy towards diversification.

On the same Kozloduy site, two new reactors, for the first time of American design, will be built by the 2030s.

Bulgaria no longer imports Russian gas for its own consumption even though it remains a hub for its delivery which passes through the Turkstream gas pipeline.

The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary have also signed nuclear fuel supply agreements with Westinghouse and Framatome.