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Bulgarian parliament votes to stop Belene NPP project

SOFIA, Feb. 28 -– The Bulgarian parliament ruled to stop the Belene nuclear power plant project by a 114-40 vote on Wednesday, February 2.

The lawmakers also voted against the proposal put forth by opposition Socialist Party leader and ex-Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev that the project be resumed.

“Our commitments include further construction of the nuclear power plant not because we want so but because there are a number of fundamental and pragmatic reasons for this. I continue to believe that this project can benefit Bulgaria. This is why I defended it and this is why we initiated a referendum after the government had refused to listen to the opposition’s arguments,” Stanishev said prior to the vote.

Stanishev stressed that nuclear energy is important for Bulgaria’s energy market from the point of view of social policy. “The electricity produced by the nuclear power plants is affordable for impoverished Bulgarian people. Bulgaria is the poorest country in the EU,” he said.

He believes that the Belene project could spur the national economy and put in the road to recovery. “No country overcame the crisis without large projects. The construction of the nuclear power plant would have created 50,000-60,000 jobs, including in related sectors… Belene is a Bulgarian project that should work for the benefit of the country,” Stanishev stressed.

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deteriorated after the investor – Germany’s RWE concern that was bidding for 49 percent of the NPP shares — had withdrawn from the project.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. The tender for the construction of the nuclear power plant was announced in 2005 and was won by Russian Atomstroyexport. 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.

Russia’s Rosatom Head Sergei Kiriyenko said late last year that “2012 is the first year when the Fukushima shock was gone” and “we can speak of more balanced assessments of the future of nuclear power”.

“Less balanced assessments” made by experts after the Fukushima incident on March 11, 2011 suggested that the number of new power units to be commissioned by 2030-2035 would decreased by 50 percent.

However, now experts appear to be more optimistic. The International Atomic Energy Agency projects 300-340 GW of new capacities to be put into operation by 2035, which is only 10-12 percent less than was expected before Fukushima. In reality this means that about 400 new power units will be built around the wolrd in the years to come, Kiriyenko said. (PNA/Itar-Tass)


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