Belene NPP Implies Hidden Risks for Both Russia and Bulgaria- Experts
Ruslan Stefanov, an expert at the Sofia-based think-tank Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD) has highlighted the inevitability of resorting to a non-market based financing mechanism for the Belene NPP project.
Stefanov gave an interview Tuesday for the Bulgarian National Radio (BNR) on the occasion of the round table "Nuclear Energy After Fukushima. The Challenges to Bulgaria" organized by CSD.
"It has long been clear to us that Belene NPP will be very hard to implement without any sort of state guarantees", Stefanov pointed out, adding that this assumption was confirmed after the withdrawal of private investor RWE.
"The project has used up too much funding, it has gotten off to a very bad start and it is very difficult to correct it and re-orient it to some sort of private basis", the expert concluded.
Commenting on Tuesday's session of the State Commission for Energy and Water Regulation (DKEVR), which is to shed light on electricity and heating tariffs for Q3 2011, Stefanov said that the movement of electricity prices is a taboo topic for politicians in Bulgaria and the rest of Europe.
"I will not tire of repeating that every new piece of infrastructure leads to a price increase", he pointed out. In his words, even if Belene NPP is built according to the most optimistic plans and cost estimations, the electricity it produces will be at least three times more expensive than the electricity currently sold by Kozloduy NPP.
"For a country like Bulgaria, which depends on external sources for over 70% of its energy consumption, the wisest policy would be to boost energy efficiency because Bulgaria will never have the chance to control prices for two reasons- it imports a huge portion of the raw materials and it lacks cheap capital for the construction of new capacities. To secure capital, Bulgaria needs to rely on foreign markets, which implies higher prices, and when it comes to fuels, the country will always have to take into account fuel importers", Stefanov stated.
Dnevnik daily's account of the Tuesday round table organized by CSD emphasizes the statement of Prof.Bulat Nigmatulin.
During his speech at the forum, former Russian Deputy Minister of Atomic Energy Bulat Nigmatulin cautioned that Belene NPP implies hidden economic risks both for the Bulgarian and the Russian sides. "At the same time, nuclear energy could not possibly thrive on a global scale after the Fukushima incident", the expert predicted.
Nigmatulin believes that the conditions offered by Moscow to lure Bulgaria into the Belene NPP project- the opportunity for 100% Russian financing, together with loans backed by state guarantees from Russia- will create a risk and a problem for Russia itself.
Nigmatulin asserted that the current cost of building new nuclear power plants is devastating and recommended developing power plants running on gas and renewable energy sources, as well as overhauling thermal power stations.
In an open letter to Rosatom director Sergey Kirienko, the energy expert criticizes the development of nuclear projects in Russia over the high level of corruption, the lack of control over construction works and the manner of spending funds.
"When the genesis, the model in Russia is flawed, it can not be exported abroad in a purified version", commented Iliyan Vassilev, former Bulgarian Ambassador to Russia.
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Ruslan is making a very good point.
Indeed, new power plant construction of any kind would lead to higher prices.
But here is the thing - almost always lost in these types of conversations.
Older power plants, after they get paid off based on years of operation, are cash cows for the electric utilities. So, electric utility companies - whether public or parvate - make a lot of money from older plants, especially after such plants have been completly depreciated.
And herein is the devil.
Yes, older plants make a lot of money and keep utility prices lower, but they are a disaster waiting to happen. They are far less safer that newer technology NPPs.
So there you have it folks:
We can either stick with older generation but generally much less safer plants, ot we can pay a bit extra and have the newest, most efficient plants built along with the peace of mind that nuclear accidents are less likely to happen.