Банкеръ Weekly



THE TECHNICAL APPRAISAL OF THE EC OF DECEMBER 2000 GIVES A CHANCE ONLY TO UNITS 5 AND 6The Bulgarian-European saga about the Kozlodoui Nuclear Power Plant will most probably end in the beginning of next week when the Energy chapter of the pre-accession negotiations with the EU is expected to be closed, the Energy Ministry announced. All controversial issues have already been clarified and the only problematic ones are the texts regarding the N-plant, which are to be finally formulated on November 12 and 13 in Brussels. The expectations, according to a representative of the negotiating sides, are that a decision satisfying both parties will be made. However, our experience from the last ten years is more than negative. In all documents, agreements, and undertaken commitments concerning Kozlodoui, Bulgaria has been the losing side. And our concrete actions have not only been short-sighted and inefficient, but the attempts to play political games in most cases resulted in wrong governmental decisions. The latter made still firmer the EU's categorical stance on the first four units of the N-plant.The process of pre-accession negotiations will be blockedif Kozlodoui's units 3 and 4 are not decommissioned until 2006, Jose Maria Hil-Robles, Co-chairman of the Bulgaria-EU Joint Parliamentary Committee, warned in Sofia. From Brussels, Guenter Verheugen again gave the problem concerning the N-plant's small units the same status as that of the Cyprus problem. The warning was repeated in front of the President Georgi Purvanov during his visit to Germany. And while in Sofia European diplomats were discussing N-plant's issues with or without any concrete occasion, politicians from the Old Continent recalled the simple truth about the fear of the average European from the nuclear reactors in Kozlodoui. However, this fear has been consistently implanted by the same politicians among their electorate over the last ten years. Europe's uneasiness regarding Kozlodoui could be overcome only after a partnership inspection, confirming the positive assessment of the N-plant's safety, made by the experts of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last June, the negotiating team claims. The same people also reiterate that the EU's stance on the issue of Kozlodoui's nuclear safety is not based on an adequate technical appraisal.However, the truth is somewhat differentA Performance Evaluation Guide was worked out in 2000 under the Nuclear Safety in Eastern and Central Europe programme, Yordan Yordanov, former hear of the Kozlodoui N-plant said for the BANKER weekly. The basic purpose of that guide is to provdie common grounds for comparing the assessment of the level of nuclear safety in the various countries, as both their economic situation and the type and exploitation status of the used nuclear capacities are different. Brussels' other aim is to focus the attention and target financial support from international organisations and funds to each one of the EU candidate countries. For each one of the candidates for EU membershipan individual report has been worked outThis is the so-called on-desk study, Mr. Yordanov notes, specifying that the documents on Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia, have already been published. But the assessment has not been made after a visit on the spot, but is based on available information - documents from inspections by the IAEA and independent organisations, as well as materials, presented by the controlling authorities in the respective country and the user (which are first assessed about their impartiality). Therefore, this assessment is not final and is liable to changes.Strange as it might seem on the background of the overall Westeuropean hysteria about the dangerousness of Kozlodui's small units, the assessment of the N-plant is quite well-meaning. There are no qualifications such as dangerous nuclear reactors. But the problem for our country lies in the fact that the overall apprasial is based on the prerequisite that Kozlodoui's small units should be decommissioned. Therefore,the EU's well-meaningnessregarding Kozlodui's four small units is like that when making a historical anaysis - it appraised our efforts to improve something that cannot be imrpoved and proves the correctness of the imposed measures.The EU's report on the Bulgarian N-plant was made in December 2000. It is based on the stances about projected and exploitation safety of Kozlodoui's units. Both defficiencies have been pointed out and positive remarks have been made regarding the N-plant's projected safety. The progress made by December 2000 as compared to IAEA's report of 1991 (which served as grounds for G-7's decision to decommission the units of WWER 440/230 type, of which Kozlodoui's four small generators are) was taken into consideration. The apparaisal then pointed out more than 100 defects in the safety of that kind of reactors, and 60 of them were qualified as very serious and unremovable by reasonable financial resource.The report of 2000 regarding exploitation safetypoints out that much has been done in that respect over the last few years, but at the same time notes the increased number of reported failures in all nuclear units. Therefore, its recommends that the reasons should be sought and the exploitation security of the N-plant - improved.The documentation, regarding the operational safety does not comply with European standards, the report reads. However, it has been noted that measures have been taken in the last few years to bring the documentation in compliance with European requirements. Perhaps the highest appraisal has been awarded to the culture of Kozlodoui's operational safety. Responsibilities in the management have been clearly defined and the operational experience of the personnel is being controlled and analyzed, the report points out. But from the drafted programmes for increasing Kozlodoui's safety, the EU's report considers mainly those regadingthe modernization of units 5 and 6The planned measures have been given a positive estimate and it is presumed that after their implementation the units might possibly reach the level of safety, approaching the standards of the nuclear power stations in Western Europe. Otherwise, the main safety principles in the original project of the two 1000-megawatt units are reduced to the effective international regulations of 1970.Brussles' firm conclusion of 2000 is that it is appropriate to invest in improving the safety of generators 5 and 6. As far as Kozlodoui's small units are concerned, the efforts should be mainly directed towards working out a plan for their decommissioning. It is a bit naive to hope that this stance could be radically changed two years later.

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