Bulgarian Govt Accuses Ex-Rulers of 'Lying, Lying, and Lying' over Belene NPP

January 23, 2013, Wednesday // 05:04

Bulgarian Economy Minister Delyan Dobrev has slammed the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party for employing overt lies to deluded the public over the controversial Belene NPP project, which was revived by the government of BSP Chair Sergey Stanishev in 2006.

Speaking in Parliament Wednesday, Dobrev accused the Socialists of being aware as early as 2008 of the prohibitively high cost of the Belene project, which was supposed to become Bulgaria's second nuclear plant but was terminated by the government of PM Boyko Borisov and GERB party as "economically unfeasible".

First conceived in the 1980s, the project for the Belene Nuclear Power Plant in Bulgaria, a Bulgarian-Russian venture, was revived during the term of Sergey Stanishev, whose government of the so called three-way coalition (2005-2009) signed the contract for the construction of the Belene NPP back in 2006 for a price of EUR 4 B with Russian state corporation Rosatom and its subsidiary Atomstroyexport.

Bulgaria and Russia have been haggling over the price in question for the past five years, among other issues surround the construction of what was supposed to become Bulgaria's second NPP, with an initial capacity of 2000 MW.

Rosatom has insisted on a price of EUR 6.3 B, while Bulgaria's Borisov Cabinet demanded EUR 5 B at first. Subsequently, however, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov announced that the cost of the Belene project could run up to EUR 10 B, and that the project is prohibitively costly and economically unfeasible for Bulgaria. Its abandonment in March 2012, led Russia's Rosatom to file a suit with an international arbitration court in Paris.

"As early as the end of 2008, BSP knew that according to RWE (the German energy giant selected as strategic investor for the Belene NPP – editor's note) the plant's construction would cost EUR 10 B but they wouldn't admit to it," Dobrev declared.

He further his predecessors in the Stanishev Cabinet, current Socialist Party MPs Rumen Ovcharov and Petar Dimitrov, of lying.

"You're lying, lying, and lying again! There are papers exposing your lies. The letters of RWE are published on the website of the Economy Ministry. To your regret, there was an original of the letter in NEK (Bulgaria's National Electric Company)," Dobrev said, as cited by BGNES, during the debates on the Interim Report of a special parliamentary committee set up to probe state spending on the Belene project made between 2002 and March 2012.

Dian Chervenkondev, a MP from the ruling center-right party GERB, presented the Interim Report, which indicates several hundred BGN worth of state spending on the NPP in the small Danube town was made in the recent years.

On Monday, Borisov said German utility RWE abandoned plans to participate in the construction of a 2000MW nuclear plant in the Bulgarian Danube town of Belene after realizing that its price tag has towered to EUR 10 B.

This allegedly emerged from a letter by the major German company to Bulgaria's state energy holding company NEK, dated 2008, which Prime Minister Boyko Borisov made public on Monday.

The letter was discovered by accident by Economy and Energy Minister Delyan Dobrev, tucked in a box, holding strictly confidential information, where the previous government hoped it will remain unseen, Borisov said.

In the letter RWE draws attention to the fact that NEK still has not made clear how it ill finance its share of the project worth EUR 5 B. The German company voices strong protest against plans for signing the fifth agreement with Russia for the project and commits to contribute up to EUR 10 M in it in 2009.

The previous Socialist-led government chose in 2009 German power utility RWE to become a strategic partner in the Belene project with a stake of 49%.

The next year however the German utility abandoned plans to participate in the construction of a 2000MW nuclear plant in Belene "due to funding problems".

"RWE clearly stated that the price of NEK's share in the NPP would be about EUR 4 B. Subsequently, it says NEK's share would be EUR 5.4 B. Why did you start paying Atomstroyexport when the strategic investor hadn't agreed to it??" Bulgaria's Economy Minister asked the former rulers.

The proposed price for the construction of two 1000 MW units of what was supposed to become Bulgaria's second nuclear power plant, Belene, was EUR 6.3 B, not EUR 10 B, as Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov claims, Russian state company Rosatom stated on Tuesday.

According to Rosatom spokesperson Sergey Novikov, Bulgarian PM Boyko Borisov's statements that the planned price for the construction of the Belene nuclear plant was EUR 10 B are extremely perplexing.

Speaking on Monday, Prime Minister Borisov slammed the previous government for hiring BNP Paribas SA, France's largest bank by market value, to arrange a EUR 250 M loan to help fund construction of the nuclear power plant, whose price tag has towered from EUR 4 B to EUR 10 B.

BNP Paribas SA, France's largest bank by market value, ditched the project in February 2010.

The latest debates on the feasibility of the Belene NPP project come days before Bulgarians head for the voting polls to cast a ballot in the country's national referendum on development of atomic energy.

The voters will receive a white ballot with the question "Should atomic energy be developed in Bulgaria through the building of a new Atomic Plant?" There will be an option to choose "yes" or "no" by using a blue ink pen.

Under current legislation in order to have a valid referendum at least 4 345 500 people must cast a ballot which is equal to the voter turnout at the last general election. A positive answer to the question of the referendum requires 50% of the vote plus 1 ballot.


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