New Billions Will Be Spent in the Nuclear Energy Blur
The “Belene” NPP project is a huge mess and shows the incompetence of the government. At the same time, the government's idea of building Unit 7 of the “Kozloduy” NPP could be delayed a lot over time and we are staring at technologies that are not yet sufficiently developed.
This was summed up to "The Banker" by the energy expert Prof. Georgi Kaschiev. He was adamant that the environmental impact assessment for the 7th block of “Kozloduy” had expired and a new one now needed to be made.
“No major project can be realized, especially a nuclear one given the incompetence of the state institutions. Our nuclear projects’ development so far confirms this thesis", the former chairman of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy said.
He gave as an example the decision to restart the “Belene” project, taken in 2018. It has already been two years and several months and
absolutely nothing has been done yet.
Moreover, the actions under this project do not comply with the laws of the country.
According to the energy expert, the procedure for seeking a strategic investor does not correspond to any regulation governing these issues. A special legal analysis has been carried out on the procedure in question and it does not comply with either the Public Procurement Act or the Energy Act, nor is it based on any government agreement.
"This is a mix of everything that has occurred to some people in the Ministry of Energy. And on top of that, this is not an investor auction, equipment suppliers and companies that want to purchase electricity are admitted in the procedure ", Kaschiev pointed out. Even the European Commission has recalled that separate procedures are required - for an investor, for equipment suppliers, and for the supply of fresh nuclear fuel.
As for the actions of the NEC and the Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NRA), it is claimed that permits have been issued for the design of unit 1 and 2 of the “Belene” Nuclear Power Unit. But the Nuclear Regulatory Agency's permits were issued in 2007, the first expired in 2016 and the second in 2017. This can be easily checked on the website of NRA. It also indicates the deadlines within which the project should have started.
"Why is there no permit? That is just because it can't be issued which turns out to be the problem of the “Belene” NPP. The NEC has neither financial resources nor human resources. The administrative capacity of the company is zero. Because of this, in my opinion, they are currently not able to get a new permit for the construction of a nuclear power plant", Georgi Kaschiev analyzes. He also recalled that remarks on the project occurred as early as 2012, when it was decided to replace key components of the future nuclear bloc, such as the turbine. Thanks to these incompetence and adventurous actions of the state, “Belene” is in a huge mess.
To all the problems we must add another one - a lawsuit is currently being filed against the decision to restart the “Belene” NPP, taken under "violations in the rules of procedure of the Council of Ministers".
“Kozloduy”'s Seventh Block Chimera
Things are similar with the idea of the Seventh Unit of “Kozloduy” NPP and construction using American technology.
"Prime Minister Boyko Borissov is wandering around, behaving stoically in the rain, talking with some people and is shown a level that has an EIA and approval from the NRA." So, BEH, heroically, in the face of the pandemic, will send a delegation to the United States to see the new technologies and the small modular reactors", Prof. Kaschiev illustrates the situation.
What is the real situation? First, these small modular reactors are not present as an option in the approved EIA report. Three projects were considered in the report and they are related to moving “Belene” equipment to “Kozloduy” site and building a Westinghouse AP 1000 nuclear unit. A shareholder agreement was also concluded for the latter, but it was not confirmed by Borisov's government on the grounds that the state has no finances for such a project. This happened in 2015 and then the state was flourishing. We are now in a deepening economic crisis.
"The funniest thing is that the report on the EIA of the seventh block has already lost its legal force. It was approved on 27 January, 2015. The report states, as required by the law, that "if no implementation of the investment proposal is initiated within five years from the date of issue of that authorization, that report loses legal force." That is, everyone claims that there is an EIA, but no one has realized that it has lost its legal force. In fact, everything on this project must start all over again, "said the former head of the Committee for the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy.
The other comic thing, he says, is that " we decided to talk about Block 7with no rhyme or reason”. The explanation is the following, in my opinion: the government wants to ask the United States not to impose sanctions for the continuation of the "Turkish Stream" in Bulgaria, even under the name "Balkan Stream". That's why we're proposing the purchase of more squadrons of fighter jets and the construction of a nuclear reactor using American technology. This is completely adventurous. I don't believe at all that the American side can buy into such actions," the professor concluded.
Whether the Americans will "buy into" or not remains to be seen, but we have already taken over BGN 3 billion out of our pockets for the equipment of the “Belene” NPP, and funds are still being poured for the research of the Seventh Unit in “Kozlodu”y.
Looking for a new generation of nuclear blocks?
Energy expert Prof. Atanas Tasev, on the other hand, believes that the government's move towards the 7th block of “Kozloduy” NPP is reasonable. According to him, in this case, an option is being sought to develop a fourth generation of reactors or the so-called small modular reactors and to do so at the “Kozloduy” NPP site. "That makes sense," he noted, "because we need such a reactor. This way, we will be able to completely close our nuclear fuel scheme."
The reason is that it is planned for the small modular reactors to work with the spent fuel, which is now separated by the power plant units, as is done in Kozloduy.
"This is how interpret the move of Prime Minister Borisov that new technologies are currently being sought, which will push the project forward well ahead of time," Atanas Tasev told “The Banker”. Otherwise, of course, a procedure for choosing technology must be carried out and it should comply with European legislation. His view is that Bulgaria is currently acting proactively and looking far ahead to the future with the ideas for a fourth generation of nuclear reactors.