October 21, 2014
After seven years of negotiations Bulgaria has signed a provisional contract with the US company Westinghouse to build a 1 GW nuclear power plant to complement the 3.8 GW nuclear capacity of the 40 year old Soviet-built Kozloduy plant, reserving the final decision to the summer of 2015 after detailed cost-benefit analysis.
Bulgaria`s record in the energy sector is one of the worst among EU member states. The costs are too high; the country is anything but energy-efficient and complaints about mismanagement, over-pricing, lack of competitiveness and corruption have been numerous.
The new Bulgarian government should therefore undertake a thorough examination before finalising a contract, and it must do with the help of external neutral experts.
Does Bulgaria, a net exporter of electricity, really need the extra power capacity? Is it worth investing $ 5 billions for a second nuclear power plant, considering its stagnant or even declining power demand, the experience with colossal cost-overruns of the new nuclear power plant in Finland and the decisions of Germany and France to close all or part of their nuclear capacity within the next 10 years.
Is not much more effective to invest $ 5 billion a thermal rehabilitation programme of the poorly insulated apartment blocks from the Soviet era, as the Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev has recently suggested in an interview? Such a programme would certainly create many more jobs than a nuclear power plant.
In any event, Bulgaria like all other member countries will have to put the emphasis on reducing the consumption of energy through higher energy-efficiency and putting in place renewable energies.
It would therefore be appropriate for the EU Commission to take a closer look at the cost-benefit analysis that Bulgaria will undertake and make sure that it also includes alternatives like rehabilitation programmes for poorly insulated public buildings and apartment blocks?
Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 7/10/2014Author : Eberhard Rhein