Банкеръ Weekly

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BULGARIA WANTS EU TO REASSESS ITS VIEW ON KOZLODOUI

There are some new technical circumstances in the Kozlodoui Nuclear Power Plant that allow Bulgaria to seek experts' explanation and reassessment of the opinion of the Group on Nuclear Issues at the European Union Council of Ministers, said Slavcho Neikov, Chief Secretary of the Ministry of Energy. The statement was made after last week's technical consultations with Morten Jung-Olsen, Representative of the European Commission and Head of Bulgaria's team at the Expansion Direction, and with the experts De Schitere and Di Girolamo.The independent group on nuclear issues was established about two years ago. It includes technical experts from the EU member countries whose views are decisive for the opinion of the political circles, explained Slavcho Neikov for the BANKER weekly. Bulgaria has only contacted the group with letters so far, he added. The country received two of its reports with questions about the Bulgarian nuclear power plant - in November 2001 and in March 2002.All the answers were accepted positively, there were no negative comments, said the chief secretary. No one of the European experts has visited the platform in Kozlodoui, however. Up to now the communication has not influenced the group's opinion about the four small units in the power plant that have been considered for ten years not liable to modernisation at economically reasonable prices. That is why the energy ministry is insistently inviting representatives of the group to visit the power plant and to come round to the opinion that the VVER 440/230 units are much different than those described in the European documents in 1992.I expect all future inspections to come to positive conclusions, Mr. Neikov underlined. A positive sign is also the preliminary assessment of the recently concluded technical mission of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency). The members of the mission announced that the power plant is in a very different technical condition.We don't want the nuclear safety to have political colour, we only want it to accurately reflect the technical aspects, said Neikov. The group is expected to help the European Commission reassess its opinion about the safety of the Kozlodoui power plant by September or October. That is why the energy ministry is planning to hold intensive bilateral talks with the EU member countries and to consult with the European Commission.Meanwhile, Denmark's Ambassador to Bulgaria, Christian Faber Rod, whose country took up a six-month presidentship of the European Union on July 1, completely ignored the four small units after quoting experts that they could not become more safe than they currently are. Bulgarian people spend four times more electricity than the other Europeans do, Ambassador Rod said. If the small units are no longer exploited, this will not lead to a shortage of electricity, since you export to your neighbour countries, he added.This is the first time a representative of the EU is commenting in public on Bulgaria's export of electricity. It seems that someone in Europe does not like this idea. Maybe this is the reason why European politicians keep repeating the declaration about the dangerous Bulgarian units since 1992. In turn, people in Bulgaria are trying to gain political dividends and get promises for a fast integration to the EU and significant financial compensations. Bulgaria's top diplomats, Solomon Passy and Meglena Kouneva, like the idea very much and, like Ambassador Rod, seem to have already determined the future of the plant.However, their opponents in the energy ministry are determined to fight until the end. Electricity worth 2 cents is waiting at an Ukranian border. If I allow it to Bulgaria, we will need to close the state, said Minister Milko Kovachev earlier in 2002. The warning is still valid, but there is much more pressure on Bulgaria now.That's why it is high time that those who make decisions in Bulgaria stop repeating what they have heard in Brussels. They have to listen to the opinion of the Bulgarian experts as well. And stop longing for short-term political dividends.

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