Why Burying Belene Is Good
Some twenty years after the Chernobyl disaster and faced with "the ominous prospect of turning the country into s disco club", Bulgaria's previously ruling Socialist-left coalition set its hopes on an ambitious solution.
I am sure you know it all too well - the construction of Belene Nuclear Power Plant's two 1,000-megawatt reactors near the Danube town of Belene.
The country started pushing the billion euro project in a bid to restore its position as a major electricity exporter in the Balkans.
Fanning a heated controversy.
The frequent U-turns of Bulgaria's current center-right prime minister over the project have fueled suspicions that links between the mafia and the political system run deep in the energy sector.
This is the reason why Wednesday's news that the center-right government of Boyko Borisov has abandoned plans to build a new nuclear power station at Belene left many Bulgarians thinking this is too good to be true.
Still I decided to go for it. Following is a list of my top five reasons why burying plans for a second nuclear power plant is good news.
1. The cost of the Belene project – which may well exceed ten billion euros, making electricity exports unprofitable – tops the list of criticisms, along with the environmental risks, the danger of seismic activity in the region and, last but not least, Bulgaria's dependence on Russia.
2. For a country that has suffered from the Chernobyl disaster and decommissioned several nuclear reactors over safety concerns, Bulgaria's pursuit of atomic energy is surprising at best.
3. In the wake of Japan's crisis, the EU's warnings and the promise to sever ties with Russia, Bulgaria should not bow to Moscow's nuclear demands. Belene will serve as Russia's advertisement in the European Union.
4. Bulgaria does not have the money for this plant and has been angling for a foreign investor. But obviously nobody wants to invest in the Russian nuclear project. In fact nobody has expressed willingness to do so in the past three years after Germany's RWE pulled out in 2009 due to funding concerns.
5. For years on end Belene has been a barren land, where billions of euros have been buried. Bulgarian taxpayers already had to dig deep into their pockets for the project, even though it has stalled over lack of a new investor and funding. In addition to EUR 300 M already forked out, Bulgaria recently had to pay an installment of EUR 280 M as the first reactor was built for delivery to the site by Russian company Atomstroyexport. We'd better use it at Kozloduy. After all Bulgaria needs only one nuclear plant and it already has it.
P.S: It is still an open question whether the project will not be miraculously resurrected again. Nuclear energy is a solution to more than just the problem of climate change for all Bulgaria's energy experts who are hoping to pile up wealth on Belene project.