Bulgaria regulator cleans nuclear plant image

Friday, September 26, 2008

SOFIA, Sept 26 (Reuters) - Bulgaria's nuclear regulator on Friday rejected accusations that nuclear power plant Kozloduy used dangerous recycled fuel, firing back against sustained criticism of the plant's safety.
In July, a nuclear scientist and long-term Kozloduy employee, Georgi Kotev, accused the plant in his web blog and several media interviews of using second-hand fuel.

The accusations followed a persistent rumour in Internet chat rooms and blogs about an alleged major radiation incident at the Balkan country's sole power plant. The government has denied the rumour.
To prove that Kozloduy was clean, the Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NRA) made checks with the Russian supplier of uranium nuclear fuel, TVEL, and hired Swedish nuclear technology firm Studsvik ABto test the fuel, NRA said in a statement.

"On the grounds of all measures taken, NRA declares that there are no reasons for doubts that the delivered nuclear fuel complies with the technical requirements," the statement said.
Kozloduy, on the Danube, is a source of national pride in the nation of 7.6 million people. Most Bulgarians opposed the closure of four older Soviet reactors at the plant several years ago that was a condition to join the European Union.

Many in the poorest European Union nation blame the closure of old reactors, seen by Brussels as unsafe, for rising electricity prices. Kozloduy now has two remaining reactors.

Bulgaria imports all of its uranium fuel for the plant from Russia. NRA said Russian nuclear fuel trader TVEL assured it that the fuel supplied to Kozloduy was produced from natural uranium.
Studsvik's tests also proved the fuel was up to standards.

Kotev has accused Kozloduy's management of pocketing the price difference between fresh and second-hand fuel. Kozloduy's managers have denied the accusations and said they were part of a campaign aimed at damaging the future of nuclear energy in Bulgaria.

The 2,000 megawatt Kozloduy accounts for over 35 percent of Bulgaria's power production.
Bulgaria is among the European Union member countries that believe atomic energy is part of the solution to climate change, as proponents say it emits almost no greenhouse gases.

Earlier this month, Bulgaria began construction of its second nuclear power plant in Belene which should be completed by 2014 to restore its positions of a major power exporter in the Balkans which it lost after closing Kozloduy's reactors.

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