Bulgaria scraps plan for new nuclear plant

SOFIA (AFP) – Bulgaria’s government approved yesterday plans to add a new reactor at its Soviet-era nuclear power plant at Kozloduy, effectively ditching another project to build a new plant at Belene.

At its weekly session, the Cabinet backed “the building of unit 7 at Kozloduy with the available equipment from the project for the Belene nuclear power plant”, the government press service said in a statement.

The decision followed Energy Ministry talks with the United States (US) nuclear engineering company Westinghouse for a hybrid solution for a new unit at Kozloduy with US technology that would make the maximum use of Russian equipment which Bulgaria has already purchased for Belene.

Neither the Cabinet nor the Energy Ministry provided details about the estimated cost of the project but expressed hopes that the new reactor can become operational in 10 years’ time. The Kozloduy plant in northern Bulgaria currently operates two Soviet-built 1,000-megawatt units after shutting four smaller ones for safety reasons to secure the country’s European Union (EU) accession in 2007.

The plant supplies one-third of the country’s electricity and the government recently extended the two reactors’ lifespans until 2027 and 2029.

To compensate for Kozloduy’s partial closure, Bulgaria had long been looking into options to build a second twin-reactor plant at Belene, also in the north.

It already ditched the project once in 2012, scrapping a deal with Russia’s nuclear company Atomstroyexport while ending up with equipment that included two 1,000-megawatt reactors for the new plant.

Some nuclear experts had also questioned the viability of a project as large as Belene because neither Bulgaria nor its neighbours are expected to need new energy sources before 2035.