Bulgaria has launched talks to convince fellow European Union members to let it reopen two nuclear power reactors that it had to shut to win EU entry, the government said on Wednesday. The closure of the 440 megawatt units at Kozloduy nuclear power plant in late 2006 caused big financial losses to Bulgaria and led to power deficits in the Balkans, Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev told a news conference.
By Anna Mudeva
SOFIA (Reuters) - Bulgaria has launched talks to convince fellow European Union members to let it reopen two nuclear power reactors that it had to shut to win EU entry, the government said on Wednesday.
The closure of the 440 megawatt units at Kozloduy nuclear power plant in late 2006 caused big financial losses to Bulgaria and led to power deficits in the Balkans, Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev told a news conference.
The poorest EU member, which used to be the main power exporter in the Balkans, is hoping to take advantage of a gathering momentum behind atomic energy as part of the solution to the world's energy problems and climate change.!ADVERTISEMENT!
"We are holding active diplomatic talks to achieve the necessary support to prolong the life of Kozloduy's nuclear units," Stanishev said.
"The closure of the two plants was unfair to Bulgaria and the entire Balkan region," Economy and Energy Minister Petar Dimitrov told the same news conference.
"Everybody is aware that the closure was carried out not because the units were unsafe but because this was the political price for Bulgaria to join the EU," he added.
The Balkan country, which joined the EU last year, reluctantly shut the two reactors at Soviet-made Kozloduy in December 2006 under pressure from Brussels and amid worries that the units were unsafe.
Several years ago Bulgaria had also closed two older reactors at Kozloduy. The country's sole nuclear power plant now has two 1,000-megawatt operating units left.
Dimitrov said the government had also asked Brussels to increase the financial compensation of 550 million euros ($815.7 million) it provided to Sofia for the 2006 closure of the units.
He said foreign companies, including Canadian and British firms, were interested in operating Kozloduy's shut reactors and helping secure political support for their reopening.
Bulgaria had to sharply reduce power sales abroad over the past year and on January 14 it froze exports for a week due to cold weather and increased demand at home.
Last year, Macedonia, Serbia, Albania and Croatia asked the EU to allow Bulgaria to reopen the two units at Kozloduy to avoid what they said was a power crisis in the region.
The European Commission, the EU executive, has ruled this out, saying there is no clear evidence the reactors can meet the bloc's safety standards and arguing that that power shortages in the region had not been proved to be due to the shutdown.
Stanishev said Bulgaria was aware how difficult it would be to convince all other 26 EU member countries to sign deals with Sofia to let it reopen the reactors. He added that the government would rely on the wave of nuclear revival in Europe.
Bulgaria also plans a second 2,000 MW nuclear power plant in the Danube town of Belene. On Friday, it will sign a contract with Russia's Atomstroiexport, controlled by gas company Gazprom, to build the 4 billion euro plant.
Growing power demand, soaring fossil fuel costs and a need to cut emissions of heat-trapping gases have fuelled a worldwide renaissance of nuclear energy. Last week, the British government gave a go-ahead to a new generation of nuclear power stations.
In eastern Europe, Lithuania plans a new plant and Romania wants to expand its existing one.