Bulgaria Nuclear-Plant Referendum May Fail Over Low Turnout

Bulgaria’s referendum on whether to build a new nuclear power plant may fail because of low turnout, according to an exit poll from Alpha Research released by Bulgarian National Television.

Turnout at 5 p.m. local time in the capital, Sofia, was 17.4 percent of eligible voters, below the threshold of 60.2 percent needed to validate the outcome, Bisser Troyanov, spokesman for the Central Electoral Commission, said by phone. At 6 p.m., national turnout was estimated at 20.3 percent of voters, with 60 percent of their ballots in favor of building the plant and 40 percent against, according to Alpha Research.

Should nationwide turnout remain below the threshold yet exceed 20 percent after all ballots are counted, the law requires the referendum question to be submitted to Parliament for discussion, he said.

On March 28, Prime Minister Boiko Borissov’s Cabinet canceled a 10 billion-euro ($13.5 billion), 2,000-megawatt nuclear power plant under construction at Belene in a project involving Rosatom Corp., Russia’s state nuclear company, after failing to agree on its cost and find Western investors.

The move caused criticism from the opposition Socialist Party, which said the government had deprived the country of an electricity source. Rosatom filed a 1 billion-euro claim on Sept. 11 with the International Court of Arbitration in Paris to cover construction work and production costs for the canceled project.

Aging Reactors

The Socialists collected about 770,000 signatures under a proposal to hold a referendum on whether to continue with the construction of the Belene plant, which was submitted to Parliament in July. The assembly voted on Oct. 24 to hold a referendum on a new nuclear plant, formulating the question without mentioning Belene.

The government plans to build a new reactor on the site of an existing nuclear plant in Kozloduy, in the north. Two Russian 1,000-megawatt reactors operating at the site are intended to be taken out of service in 2017 and 2019. The government is working to extend their service life.

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