Банкеръ Weekly


Minor Defaults in Kozloduy Nuke Require Attention

Something strange is happening at Bulgaria’s nuclear power plant Kozloduy these days. Within a week the sixth block of the plant showed a fault for a second time. Firstly, on January 3, after activation of the electrical protection, the generator disconnected itself from the power system of the country. HQ assured that all systems of unit acted according to the design algorithms and the power of the reactor stabilized at 40% of the nominal. Teams of NPP checked the electrical protection and replaced elements of it. Ultimately, a day later the reactor was again used at its maximum power capacity.

A few days later a new problem appeared. On January 7, 2015 one of the two turbo feed pumps went out. It was supplying water to the steam generators in the secondary circuit in the conventional, non-nuclear part of the block. Reactor’s power was again temporarily reduced to 40% of the nominal, after which all the required checks and analyzes the state of the facilities were carried out. This time the reason for the switching off of the pump was the reducing of the consumption of the cooling water. After the restoration of the normal consumption level, the pump was turned on to work again and power of the unit increased.

These incidents, as mentioned, were in the non-nuclear circuit of the plant, i.e. there is no risk of leakage of radioactive material, but the bad news is that any such reduction in the power production of the plant the country is losing money from the lower quantity of produced electricity. And what is not normal is that they happen to a block that passed annual outage and general inspection in September 2014. Similar anomalies indicate that the status of the 1000 MW units of NPP Kozloduy is not good, mainly due to neglected maintenance and investment programmes in recent years. There is no clear information on planned and spent amounts on these items, they are missing from the accounts of the company, while supposedly each year the condition of the plant improves, but apparently this is still insufficient to make up for lost time.

In fact, politicians are to blame for the current state of the plant. Upon their order, Kozloduy has become a hostage to the whole energy system. It has seen delayed payments, its cheap electricity is resold on the open market by private traders and what is left for the NPP is only crumbs. On top of all this, constant reshuffling in the management of the country’s only nuclear plant is taking place. Since 2004 there have changed eight executives who headed the plant. It is worth remembering that for a long period this very specific enterprise was topped by an expert on internal combustion engines, while the head of the Board and the one responsible for public procurement was a young ecologist specializing in the golden eagle. All this cannot but affect the motivation of the people who work in the company, and its status.

We've said it already, we'll say it again. It is high time all interested parties understood that as appetizing as it may look, the nuclear power plant of Bulgaria is not a pie and a place for partisan and nepotistic appointments.

"The Council of Ministers has received a request for a purchase of the project Belene, and the potential investor is not of Russian origin," said last week in Pleven Vice - President of ABC Rumen Petkov. For this reason, his party intends to prepare a question to the Minister of Energy or to the Prime Minister. According Petkov we need to know what the content of this letter is and what will be done, as the terminated in early 2012 nuclear project is a strategic issue for the country’s national security.

Interestingly, at the same time, the former interior minister showed pretty good knowledge of what the document says – the unnamed investor wanted talks with Bulgarian government and had previously declared that the investor is not seeking state guarantees for financial resources to be invested in the project and that does not want a contract with the state to purchase the produced electricity from the NPP Belene. Furthermore, the candidate buyer allegedly knows that the license for the assessment of environmental impact of the project has expired. Petkov called for its quick renewal.

In 2012 there was a private investor interested in NPP Belene. Then the owner of the company Risk Engineering Bogomil Manchev presented the consortium Global Power Equipment in which the main investor was the American company Quantum Group. The whole story, however, was quite intransparent and it did not produce serious results.

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