Bulgarian Lawmakers to Debate Atomic Plant After Failed Vote

Bulgaria’s referendum on whether to build a new nuclear plant will be brought before Parliament because of low turnout.

With all ballots counted in the Jan. 27 vote, turnout was 20.22 percent, the Central Electoral Commission in Sofia said on its website today.

Referendum questions must be submitted to Parliament when turnout exceeds 20 percent and is below the 60 percent needed to validate the outcome. Of those who cast ballots, 60.6 percent were in favor of building the plant while 38 percent were opposed, according to the commission.

Prime Minister Boyko Borissov’s Cabinet on March 28 canceled a 10 billion-euro ($13.5 billion) project to build a 2,000-megawatt nuclear power plant at Belene with Rosatom Corp., Russia’s state nuclear company, after failing to agree on cost. They also couldn’t find European and U.S. investors.

The move caused criticism from the opposition Socialist party, which said the government deprived the country of a source of electricity. 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 on the canceled project.

Surplus Capacity

“Bulgaria’s installed generation capacity is about 11.7 gigawatts, while peak demand in the coldest winter days is 6.7 gigawatts,” Energy and Economy Minister Delyan Dobrev told reporters yesterday. “The economic crisis has eroded demand and Bulgaria at the moment has surplus power output.”

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 Oct. 24 to hold a vote on a new nuclear plant, formulating the question without the mention of Belene.

The government plans to build a new reactor on the site of an existing nuclear plant in the northern town of Kozloduy. The plant now operates two Russian 1,000-megawatt reactors whose service life ends in 2017 and 2019, which the government is seeking to extend.

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