Bulgaria agrees to shut nuclear reactors

Promise to decommission four Kozloduy units by 2006 clears way for start of EU accession talks

The Bulgarian government has agreed to close four of the six nuclear reactors at its Kozloduy plant by 2006 at the latest, the European Commission said today. The accord means all eight reactors classed as dangerous and "unupgradeable" that are located in countries due to join the EU will be decommissioned within a decade.

The EU has repeatedly stressed that the closure of the four Kozloduy reactors by 2002 would be a condition of Bulgaria's eventual entry into the bloc. But the Bulgarian government recently passed a law which would have seen the last reactor decommissioned only in 2010.

Commission president Romano Prodi responded in October by singling out Bulgaria for special criticism over the Soviet-designed VVER reactors (ENDS Daily 14 October). However, following a meeting yesterday with EU enlargement commissioner, Günther Verheugen, Bulgarian prime minister Ivan Kostov said he was "fully committed" to closing units 1-4 of the Kozloduy plant "at the earliest possible date."

Two units will be closed by 2003, he said, and a review in the same year would decide on closure of the second two. The Commission said its understanding was that they would be closed in 2006 at the latest. Mr Verheugen said the decision would "help open the door" for accession talks to begin following the EU summit in Helsinki later this month.

In return for the reactor closure, Bulgaria will receive euros 200m to compensate for loss of electricity from Kozloduy, which generates half the country's supply. Half of this would be transferred only after the last reactor had been closed, a spokesman said.

In October the Commission secured commitments from Slovakia to close two reactors at its Bohunice plant by 2008 (ENDS Daily 10 September) and Lithuania to decommission its facility at Ignalina by 2009 (ENDS Daily 28 September). Austria has taken a strong line on the facilities, calling for the three countries to be prevented from joining the EU until they were closed.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111.

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