Reuters International

SOFIA (Reuters) - An arbitration court has ruled that Bulgarian state energy firm NEK should pay nearly 550 million euros (437.70 million pound) in compensation to Russia's Atomstroyexport for a cancelled nuclear power project, Bulgaria's energy minister said on Thursday.

"NEK received the court's decision late last night. It is still not handed down officially. In the next days, NEK will approach Atomstroyexport over the decision," Energy Minister Temenuzhka Petkova told reporters.

Atomstroyexport had sought more than 1 million euros at the Paris-based International Court of Arbitration against NEK over the cancellation of the Belene nuclear power plant it had been contracted to build.

NEK teamed up with Atomstroyexport to build two 1,000 megawatt reactors at Belene, on the Danube River at the border with Romania, in 2006.

Sofia abandoned the project in 2012, after it failed to attract investors for the 10 billion euros ($11 billion) scheme and also came under pressure from its Western allies about its energy dependence on Moscow.

Petkova said the court has ruled that NEK should cover the funds the Russian state company had spent to produce equipment for the project, but has rejected claims for additional works and damages from lost profits.

Bulgaria is currently extending the lifespan of its two 1,000 Soviet-made reactors at its Kozloduy nuclear power plant and is looking for an investor to build one more reactor at the same site.

($1 = 0.8887 euros)

(Reporting by Angel Krasimirov; Writing by Tsvetelia Tsolova; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

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