EU approves Bulgarian nuclear plant loan

Environmentalists decry approval of funds without fixed closure date of problem reactors

The EU yesterday approved a loan of euros 212.5m to help upgrade safety standards of two nuclear reactors at the controversial Kozloduy plant in Bulgaria to "internationally acceptable levels". The money was promised after Bulgaria agreed to shut down the plant's other four "non-upgradeable" reactors (ENDS Daily 30 November 1999). The European Commission said the loan would finance over 40% of a five-year modernisation programme.

Bulgaria pledged to decommission the four Soviet-designed VVER reactors after Commission chief Romano Prodi warned that failure to close them would prevent the country entering the EU (ENDS Daily 14 October 1999). Sofia agreed to shut down two of the reactors in 2003. No date has been set for the second pair, but the European Commission says it "understands" they will be taken out of service by 2006.

Environmentalists have criticised the loan, calling it the "continuation of an inconsistent strategy" which has "failed to assure the closure of any nuclear power plant in the region." By not insisting on a closure date for the second two reactors the EU was "effectively prolonging the lifetime of high-risk reactors in order to finance Bulgaria's electricity export programme," said Patricia Lorenz of Friends of the Earth.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111; Friends of the Earth Europe, tel: +32 2 542 0184.

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