By Jan Korselt and Martin Dokoupil
PRAGUE, May 23 (Reuters) - Romania is eyeing construction of a new nuclear plant with capacity of up to 4,800 megawatts, whose first unit could come on line after 2020, the head of the state nuclear operator Nuclearelectrica said on Friday.
Along with some other former communist EU members, Romania is at the forefront of a renewed push for nuclear energy as an alternative to coal and gas which emit carbon dioxide, blamed for global warming.
Nuclearelectrica operates Romania's only nuclear power station in Cernavoda, where the first of two 706 MW units went on stream in 1996.
Two more reactors at the same site are planned by 2014 and 2015, and Nuclearelectrica would like more.
"For the time being, the issue is at the political level. My interpretation is that in 2020 we could commission the first unit," Chief Executive Officer Teodor Chirica told Reuters.
"The discussion is about 2-4 units between 600 and 1,200 megawatts each," he said in an interview on the sidelines of the European Nuclear Energy Forum in Prague. The government now needs to find solutions on financing a selection of sites for the project in the summer, Chirica said, adding a database of potential locations was already available due to an intensive search before 1990.
CERNAVODA DEAL CLOSE
Chirica said he expected the cabinet to approve shortly a draft that would give the state a 51 percent stake in a partnership designed to build the third and fourth reactor in Cernavoda, confirming last month's remarks by the economy ministry.
The state had initially sought a 20 percent stake in the 2.2 billion euro ($3.47 billion) project.
Romania obtained six binding bids last year for a licence to build the reactors at the Danube river plant.
Chirica said the new plan would be discussed with investors after it is cleared by the government in a week or two.
"Up to this moment, there is no intention from any of the six investors to leave the project. Of course they are (waiting) to see the official document ... after that we will see how to continue with the project," he said.
The bidders are Belgium's Electrabel, Italy's Enel, Spain's Iberdrola, Czech CEZ, a Romanian unit of ArcelorMittal and Germany's RWE.
(Writing by Martin Dokoupil)