Банкеръ Weekly

Briefs

EUROPEAN TRUMPETS ECHOED WOEFULLY IN KOZLODOUI

Bulgaria's noisily proclaimed European future has only one meaning for the citizens of the small town of Kozlodoui on the Danube river and it is the certain decommissioning of the local N-plant's second pair of small generators, 3 and 4. For more than 30 years the Kozlodoui Nuclear Power Plant has been ensuring the energy balance of the country and the Balkans, as well as the stable economic development of the Vratsa region. Each of the four 440-megawatt units produces about 3 billion kWh of electricity annually, at an average price of BGN0.034/kWh. Bulgaria will lose USD1.6BN from the pre-term close-down of generators 3 and 4, Government experts have calculated. And as a compensation the country will get only EUR550MN, earmarked for overcoming the social and economic consequences. The technical safety of the units could not be doubted either as it was confirmed by the international experts who carried out the partners' inspection of the power station in 2003. The inspection proved there were no technical reasons at all for decommissioning units 3 and 4 in 2006. Nobody in the EU has questioned either the correctness of the Agency for Energy Regulation when it issued 10-year licences for their operation, the already deceased ex-chairman of the agency, Emil Vapirev, commented then. In October 2002 the Nuclear Safety Director with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Anic Karninyo admitted that according to the findings of several successive checks the Kozlodoui N-plant meets all nuclear safety standards and that it is equivalent to any other power station in the European Union (EU) of that type. In fact, there is hardly anyone in this country who is not convinced yet that the decommissioning of Kozlodoui's generators is a purely political move, represented by several Bulgarian governments as a pass for our country's admission to the rich EU family. But it is worthwhile to recall how in 2004 Poland held negotiations with the community to the last moment in order to get an increase of its agricultural quotas and longer grace periods. And it ultimately succeeded to maintain its national interests. Unlike in Poland, the Bulgarian authorities deliberately closed their eyes to the Kozlodoui case, regardless of the gradual change of attitudes in Western Europe against nuclear power engineering. Bulgarian governors should decide if Kozlodoui's units 3 and 4 will be generating electricity after 2006 as well. But during these three days while we are in Bulgaria we have heard quite contradictory signals, EU deputy Terry Win noted in end-March. He was sure our units were as safe as those in Western Europe and it would be crazy to close them down in 2006. In his words, in Lithuania there are generators of the Tchernobyl type that will be decommissioned only in 2009, although their safety is far behind that of Kozlodoui's units 3 and 4. The EU will pay you EUR200-300MN in compensation, but nothing is said about the EUR3BN which Bulgaria will lose after the generators' decommissioning.We'll add that nobody has mentioned another obvious fact - the only way to repay the loans for the modernization of Kozlodoui's 1,000-megawatt units 5 and 6 after its small generators are closed down is by hiking the electricity produced by them. And that will render the Bulgarian N-plant uncompetitive on the already liberal energy market. In order to continue its operation and guarantee the safety of the already decommissioned four small units it will rely mainly on money from the budget and the same EU that has closed them down.

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