Bulgarians vote for building nuclear power plant

The citizens of Bulgaria have come out in support of developing nuclear energy. The results of a national referendum on the construction of new nuclear power plants in the country held on 27 January have been counted.

The Bulgarians were asked to answer the question: “Do you support the development of nuclear energy by means of building a new nuclear power plant?” The vote was 61% in favour of the nuclear power plant and 35% against. The turnout, at 21.8%, was only just above the minimal threshold. This means that the question of building a nuclear power plant will now be tabled in parliament for its consideration.

The referendum was initiated by the opposition – the Bulgarian Socialist Party. The original plan was to pose the question more specifically and to ask about the need to build the Belene nuclear power plant, but later it was decided to make the question more general.

The tender for construction of the Belene nuclear power plant in Bulgaria was announced in 2005. The winner was Atomstroyexport, a subsidiary of Rosatom. In 2007 the Russian design was deemed to meet all the European technical requirements regarding power stations with new generation light water reactors, and on 18 January 2008 the contract agreement for construction of the power station was signed.

However, the Bulgarian side’s plans have now changed. It is now planned to build a gas-fuelled heat and power station on the site where construction of Belene is now underway. The Bulgarian authorities intend to transfer the almost completed Russian reactor from the Belene nuclear power plant construction site to the Kozloduy nuclear power plant, which is already operating, and thus to bring the number of power units at the country’s only functioning nuclear power plant up to three.

Bulgaria is currently operating the fifth and sixth power units at the Kozloduy nuclear power plant, the operating licences for which expire in 2017 and 2019 respectively. Delyan Dobrev, the Minister of Economy, Energy and Tourism, recently stated that the two power units at the republic’s only nuclear power plant, built in 1974, can be kept working until 2030 and even up to 2040.

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