PARIS, Feb 26 - French utility Suez said on Tuesday it expected to hear within "the next few weeks or the next few months" whether Romania will pick the French firm to build a nuclear power plant in the Balkan country.
A number of countries in central, eastern and south eastern Europe plan to build new nuclear power reactors or extend the life of existing ones to meet growing domestic demand and replace ageing power capacity.
Their plans mirror a worldwide nuclear boom as part of the solution to meet rising energy needs and combat climate change.
"We have submitted bids...and in Romania, the process is quite well advanced," Chief Executive Officer Gerard Mestrallet told journalists after unveiling the firm's 2007 results.
"We expect to hear more in the next few weeks or next few months," he said
Romania, whose two nuclear reactors at the Cernavoda plant accounted for 13 percent of all power in 2007, plans to build two more reactors, each with 706 megawatt power capacity at the same site by 2015. It plans to build a second plant later.
Candidates to build the two new reactors include Electrabel, Enel , Spain's Iberdrola , CEZ, a Romanian unit of Arcelor Mittal and RWE . The investment is estimated at around 2.2 billion euros.
Mestrallet said that the process was slightly less advanced in Bulgaria. "But we are still working at it," he said.
Bulgaria, where nuclear energy supplies 43 percent of all power, plans a new 2,000 MW nuclear power plant at the Danube river town of Belene.
It has contracted Russia's Atomstroyexport, along with France's Areva and Germany's Siemens , to build the plant in a 4.0 billion-euro deal, with the first reactor expected to come online in late-2013.
Sofia is yet to pick a strategic investor for 49 percent of the plant from Italy's Enel , Germany's E.ON and RWE, Czech CEZ and Belgium's Electrabel, owned by French utility Suez.
Suez added it was keeping a close eye on Britain, which last month gave a go-ahead to replace its ageing atomic reactors.
Mestrallet reiterated its plan to develop nuclear power plants in the rest of Europe but said a decision would not be taken before 2009, after the merger with Gaz de France .
The company said it was key for the group to keep the same share of nuclear power in its energy mix in the long term but that it would inevitably decline in the next few years.
"We will develop them in all countries in partnerships, or alone, in countries where we are welcome," Suez head of operations, Jean-Pierre Hansen, told an analyst meeting earlier on Tuesday.
He cited as potential target markets Brazil, the United States, India, China and South Africa.