Bulgaria considers plan to reopen closed nuclear reactors

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

SOFIA, Bulgaria: Plagued by electricity shortages, Bulgaria on Wednesday announced it was considering plans to reopen nuclear reactors it had to shut down before joining the European Union a year ago.

The two Russian-made units at Bulgaria's only nuclear plant, Kozlodui, were switched off just hours before the Balkan country joined the European Union on Jan. 1, 2007.

"We are holding active diplomatic talks to achieve the necessary support to prolong the life of Kozlodui's units 3 and 4," Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev said.

He did not elaborate but said reopening the reactors was a "clear political choice of the government."

The move would require approval from the other 26 EU members.

"The closure of the two reactors was unfair and inefficient not only for Bulgaria, but for the whole region," Energy Minister Petar Dimitrov said.

"It was clear to everyone that the units were closed not because they were dangerous but because this was the political price Bulgaria had to pay for its EU entry."

Bulgaria is facing a surge in domestic power demand due to the freezing weather, and on Tuesday it temporarily halted electricity exports.

The EU sought the mothballing of the two 440-megawatt reactors, citing safety concerns.

The Kozlodui plant continued operations with two 1,000-megawatt units, also of the Russian VVER type.

Energy Minister Dimitrov also said the government had asked the European Commission to increase the financial compensation of €550 million (US$816 million) it had provided to Bulgaria for the reactors' shutdown.

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