Prodi delivers Bulgaria nuclear ultimatum

EU Commission chief tells Sofia to close Soviet-designed reactors before accession talks begin

European Commission president Romano Prodi told Bulgaria yesterday it would have to agree an early closure of four Soviet-designed nuclear reactors at its Kozloduy plan before it could begin formal talks on joining the EU. "Negotiations with Bulgaria should not begin until the authorities have set an acceptable closure date for the four unsafe blocks," he told MEPs in a speech which otherwise enhanced the prospects of an early enlargement of the EU (see separate story in today's issue). The reactors at the Kozloduy plant - which supplies over 40% of Bulgaria's electricity - is one of three that EU leaders think are impossible to upgrade to western European safety standards. The EU wants Bulgaria to close the reactors by 2002. In March, however, the Bulgarian parliament approved a plan to close the last reactor in 2010. In contrast, the Commission yesterday welcomed as "far-sighted and courageous" decisions taken by the Lithuanian and Slovak governments to close similar nuclear plants at Ignalina and Bohunice in line with EU demands. Both are to be closed over the next decade under agreements involving significant EU funding of alternative energy sources, although Austria and some other EU countries are still pushing for faster closure (ENDS Daily 13 October).

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