Bulgaria's nuclear plea set to be rejected
Bulgaria's plea to restart two reactors at the Kozloduy nuclear power plant has suffered a blow, with the European Commission appearing to reject the idea despite growing pressure from the Balkans in support of Sofia.
On Monday (13 March), four Balkan countries - Serbia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Albania and Croatia - adopted a declaration, asking the EU to allow Bulgaria to resume electricity production and warning of grim consequences if the two reactors were not reopened.
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"We are concerned about the current electricity supply problems of the region, which could result in higher economic and political instability," the common statement, cited by the BBC, said. The statement also claimed that electricity prices had jumped 80-100% when compared with last year.
Prior to the shut-down in 2006, Bulgaria exported 7.8 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, the amount that roughly equals to what the two nuclear reactors in Kozloduy produced.
Brussels has not yet considered the Balkan proposal, but European Commission spokesperson Ferran Tarradellas told the BBC that conditions had not changed.
"Bulgaria has undertaken a commitment to close units three and four in Kozloduy as part of the accession treaty," Mr Tarradellas said, adding the EU had already poured hundreds of millions of euros in assistance to Bulgaria to soften the blow of the closure.
The 'no' sign was further reinforced by the chief European Commission representative in Bulgaria, Michael Humphreys, who told the BBC that "any request to change that decision would be unacceptable, because it would entail a renegotiation of the accession treaty, a unanimous consent of the 27 member state governments and ratification by 27 parliaments".
The two reactors at the Kozloduy nuclear site - considered unsafe by the EU - were closed by Sofia on 1 January, leaving just two out of the six units there still in action. Another two Soviet-era reactors were closed in 2003.
A similar battle has been under way between the Brussels executive body, Slovakia and Lithuania – both forced to shut down Soviet-era nuclear reactors as part of their accession commitments.
Last month, Lithuanian prime minister Gediminas Kirkilas confirmed Vilnius has started technical-level talks with the EU on extending the 2009 shut-down deadline for a "Chernobyl-type" nuclear reactor at its Ignalina power plant in the east of the country.
The move comes despite the fact that Vilnius has already received €900 million in EU aid for the process of decommissioning the facility, which was built in the 1980s and which continues to supply electricity to all three Baltic states.
Slovakia closed part of its nuclear power plant at Jaslovske Bohunice at the end of 2006, with another reactor due to be shut down by December 2008. Bratislava's previous efforts to avoid the deadlines were firmly rejected by Brussels, which argued that it was not possible to open the accession treaty.