Bulgaria is protesting against the government’s decision to abandon construction of NPP “Belene”. The facility erected by Russian specialists was to help the Balkan country to meet stringent EU requirements for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But the political situation was more important for the Sofia politicians than the national interests.
The Bulgarians took to the streets when it became clear that the government of Boyko Borisov managed to avoid a parliamentary vote of no confidence. The ruling party “Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria” (GERB) was able to persuade the deputies of the uneconomical nature of the nuclear power plant “Belene” that specialists of the Russian “Atomstroyexport” have been designing for several years. They released excerpts from the report of the British bank HSBC that implies that the power facility will break even no earlier than 2038, and then only if the price of electricity is twice the current.
However, the same document states that four years from now one megawatt-hour in Bulgaria can cost around 60-70 euro against the current 35-40. By the end of the next decade, the price will take off and be a hundred euros. Therefore, the issue of return on investment is not important. As for the time, nuclear power plants are not built for ten or twenty years. Russian reactors are designed for at least 60 years of service. The commercial potential of the plant in Belene leaves no doubt, and the project has been repeatedly put through various tests, both in terms of economic feasibility and compliance with the European safety standards.
Now Bulgaria has the only nuclear power plant in Kozloduy, built by the USSR in 1974, whose reactors provide nearly a quarter of all electricity consumed in the country. Construction of the plant “Belene” would double the production of the national nuclear energy.
The leaders of the Bulgarian Atomic Forum and the Bulgarian Nuclear Society Bogomil Manchev and Pavlin Grudev, apparently, felt that the days to save the critically important for the country energy were numbered. In mid-April they sent a letter to President Rosen Plevnelievu and Prime Minister Boyko Borisov requesting to revisit the decision of the government. They noted the importance of implementing the Russian project for the Bulgarian economy, pointing to the need to comply with the European regulations to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.
“No other technology of electricity production besides nuclear would ensure the implementation of these rules, and a failure to comply with them will lead to environmental sanctions,” ITAR-TASS news agency quoted the heads of public organizations addressing the country’s leadership. “We insist on conducting a broad public discussion of the consequences associated with the failure of the NPP “Belene”. The society must and shall be entitled to receive all the information. We believe that after such a discussion it would be necessary to hold a referendum “for” or “against” NPP “Belene”. Let the Bulgarian people express their will on this important issue for all of us. ”
But the President, who is conducting openly anti-Russian policy, remained deaf to the concerns of the nuclear industry specialists His government delayed the signing of the general contract for construction of the Belene nuclear power plant for nearly three years until in late March they finally abandoned it. Now in place of nuclear reactors gas CHP will be built. No one seems to know how this decision relates to the European policy of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, the Balkan country does not have its own sources of gas.
Curtailing the strategic energy project with no apparent reason has caused a storm of indignation in the Bulgarian society, especially considering that the reason for this change was clear to all.
A journalist of the specialized Internet portal AtomInfo.bg Nora Stoichkova wrote that the NPP “Belene” has been blocked due to the unprecedented external pressure from the U.S. and the EU. While the ambassadors of the EU just stood aside, the U.S. ambassador in Sofia had numerous appearances in the media where he was vigorously lobbying in favor of the U.S. energy corporations – Chevron and Westinghouse.
Now, after the failure of no-confidence vote for the parliament and the cabinet of Borisov, the fate of the Russian project is in the hands of the Bulgarian people. Soon we will find out if they manage to get a plebiscite on the issue of building a strategic power facility. A member of the Committee on Budget and Tax with the State Duma Yevgeny Fyodorov is convinced that common economic sense will eventually prevail over the political conformism.
“The market for the construction of nuclear power plants is very small and, therefore, highly politicized. There are three or four countries in the world – Russia, USA, France and Germany – that can build these energy facilities. Each unit is worth billions of dollars, even without subsequent maintenance. Therefore, competition for these contracts is at the highest political level. In this case we see a determined effort of the United States to oust Russia from the east and transfer the energy projects to their own companies. The activity of the current Bulgarian government confirms this theory.
Since Russia’s proposal is much more profitable – we have better and cheaper technology – I am sure that the issue will ultimately be solved in our favor. After all, what is the situation in Bulgaria like? Some governments are more favorable towards Russia, some are less favorable. The past government has signed a contract for the construction, and the current one backed out. I think that it does not change the policy. But soon the government will change, especially considering that the realities of the economic crisis will contribute to it. In the next year or two we can expect a resumption of NPP “Belene,” Yevgeny Fyodorov said in an interview with Bigness.
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