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Belene NPP fiasco jeopardises Bulgaria’s atomic energy future-opposition

March 29, 2012, 5:03 UTC+3
The decision to withdraw from the Belen nuclear power plant project will jeopardise the future of atomic power engineering in Bulgaria
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SOFIA, March 29 (Itar-Tass) —— The decision to withdraw from the Belen nuclear power plant project will jeopardise the future of atomic power engineering in Bulgaria, opposition Socialist Party leader Sergei Stanishev said.

He stressed that the decision is deadly for the present leadership of Bulgaria, for taxpayers and the nuclear power industry in the country.

Stanishev warned that it would lead to higher electricity prices for the population.

“Naturally, Russia protected its own interests [in the Belene NPP project]. But where is the Bulgarian interest? This decision does not protect it in any way. Initially, the Belene NPP was intended as a project under state control. It’s not a secret that electricity generated by nuclear power plants is cheaper than that from traditional resources. Another aspect directly affects the energy dependence of the country because a nuclear power plant is a source of energy that belongs to the state,” he said.

Stanishev believes that “the future of nuclear power engineering has been seriously jeopardised in Bulgaria. Its destruction began with the closure of Units 3 and 4 at the Kozloduy NPP. Bulgaria will face the need to import electricity from other countries,” he said.

Russia and Bulgaria signed a memorandum on late November 2010 that lays out the principles of establishing a project company to build the Belene nuclear power plant.

Bulgaria started experiencing problems with the project after the outbreak of the global financial crisis. The situation deteriorated after the investor - Germany's RWE concern that was bidding for 49 percent of the NPP shares -- had withdrawn from the project.

The Belene site was approved for the construction of a second Bulgarian NPP by a Council of Ministers decree on March 20, 1981. The site was handed to the Ministry of Economics on December 31, 1981.

The foundations of the future power plant were laid in 1987 according to the design of Atomenergoproekt Kiev from the USSR and Energoproekt Sofia. The design suggested the construction of four VVER-1000/V 320 reactors. Between 1988 and 1990 40 percent of the construction work of reactor 1 was finished and 80 percent of the equipment was supplied. The project was abandoned in 1990 due to the democratic changes in Bulgaria. In 2002, the government decided to restart the Belene project. In 2005, the National Electric Company launched a procedure for selection of a contractor for the engineering, procurement, and commissioning of Belene Nuclear Power Plant, Units 1 and 2.

Bulgaria withdrew from the project in March 2012.

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