3 February 2013

Uncertain Future for Nuclear New‑build in Bulgaria

The future of the Belene nuclear power plant in Bulgaria remains unclear following a national referendum on the 27 January 2013. The power plant has had a long history of starts and stops since construction first begun in 1987. The most recent halt was in March 2012, when the Prime Minister Boiko Borisov, stated: “We just can’t afford to pay the total cost of the project, which will reach some 10 billion euros. And there is no way we can make future generations pay”. After 25 years in the statistics, the project was also withdrawn from the list of units “under construction” in the database of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

However, the opposition Socialist party called for the referendum in an attempt to force the restart of construction and as part of the political campaign in preparation for national elections in July 2013. The polls recorded that around 60% of those who voted were in favor of the restart, with 40% against. While the voting turnout was just above the 20% threshold leading to a Parliamentary debate, it remained well below the 60% required to make the vote binding.

Following the vote either side claimed victory. The Prime Minister has said that he will reject the project once again. Reuters quoted Kiril Avramov, a political analyst with New Bulgarian University, as saying: “The low turnout however indicates there are no clear winners and we will be facing a serious stalemate after the July election."