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Kozloduy 3

Gas crisis abused by nuclear lobby in Slovakia and Russia

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jan Haverkamp, Greenpeace EU energy campaigner

Shortly before the Russian / Ukrainian gas crises, the Kozloduy municipality had started a new offensive to re-open the closed nuclear reactors of Kozloduy 3 and 4. The mayor of Kozloduy sent a letter to the European and Bulgarian Parliaments. In Standart, a major Bulgarian newspaper, Head of the Kozloduy Exploitation Department Rasho Parvanov reminded on that occasion that "Even if permission is granted, to restart the units will take 6 months". Shortly before Christmas, it became clear that Kozloduy had not made any personnel redundant since the closure of the two blocks in 2006, in the continuing hope for a restart.

Greenpeace EU Unit - Then Russia and Ukraine cut off all the gas-flow to Bulgaria. On January 6, Bulgaria's president Georgi Purvanov announced to the BBC that Bulgaria would need to restart Kozloduy 3, 4 and had a right to do so under article 36 of the Bulgarian EU Accession Treaty, that leaves the possibility for emergency measures counter to the Treaty within a three year period after accession - though crucially, with consent of the European Commission. Purvanov said Bulgaria needed to reactivate the Kozloduy unit as "a more critical situation is hardly possible".

In the mean time, Slovakia had fulfilled its obligation in its Accession Treaty and shut down Bohunice V1's second reactor for good on December 31 in the evening. After an assessment by the G7 in 1992, Bulgaria and Slovakia were asked to close all VVER 440/230 reactors because of safety problems that cannot be repaired with upgrades, including the lack of a second containment. This obligation was included in the EU Accession Treaties of both countries.

Possibly inspired by the Bulgarian example, Slovak populist Prime Minister Robert Fico announced on January 10 after an emergency cabinet session that he wanted the reactor to be restarted to meet the crisis. In a short letter he had alerted the European Commission the day before that the Slovak government was contemplating the move. "Industry has had to severely cut production and provided there is no immediate change in the gas supply, the electricity sector will face a blackout that would bring the whole country to a complete crisis and standstill," Fico wrote in his letter to the Commission.

On the home front an around the clock information campaign from Greenpeace tried to explain to the Slovak population the harsh reality that nuclear electricity could not replace gas in any way. Slovak gas is mainly used for heating purposes, chemical industry and some transport. Less than 6% of Slovakia's electricity needs are covered by gas - virtually all of it peak-load that cannot be replaced by inflexible nuclear capacity. Greenpeace calculated that a restart of Bohunice V1 would bring per day several hundreds of thousands of Euros into the pockets of Slovak state operator JAVYS without addressing any of the gas emergency problems. The Slovak electricity distributors and the grid operator furthermore stated that there was no shortage of electricity, nor to be expected and that possible temporary shortages could easily be covered with imports.

Also the European Commission was not impressed. On January 14, DG TREN spokes-person Ferran Tarradellas explained to an amused Brussels press corps that re-opening of Bohunice V1 would be illegal because Slovakia's three year emergency clause in the Accession Treaty (article 37, similar to the one in the Bulgarian Treaty) had already expired and that it was unclear to the Commission how nuclear could play a role in meeting a gas emergency.

The Commission demanded Slovak Economy Minister Jahnatek to come with written proof instead of oral declarations. That same evening, Prime Minister Fico broke the line of his Economy Minister and announced that the decision would be postponed. Almost a week later, the idea was completely shelved.

On January 8, Bulgaria received support from Members of the European Parliament Ari Vatanen (France / Finland, active member of a Foratom organised nuclear lobby group of MEPs), Jan Zahradil (Czech) and Vladimir Urutchev (Bulgarian, former manager from the Kozloduy NPP) with a letter to Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs: "Now, the impact of the severe economic crisis is compounded by obstinacy and failure to take timely decisions that would have ensured safe, reliable, clean and affordable energy for today and the years ahead. We ask you to review the Kozloduy situation." On Sunday January 18, a small business-interest-led new political party organized around 6000 people to demonstrate in Sofia for the re-opening of Kozloduy 3 and 4.

Again, the European Commission was not impressed. At the same day, Bulgarian Euro-Commissioner Meglena Kuneva tried to explain Bulgarian parliamentarians that Bulgaria needs to submit a motivated detail request to the European Union and that the Commission needs to be convinced with arguments that there is indeed an emergency that can be addressed with such means. Bulgarian daily Dnevnik furthermore calculated that Kozloduy had spent already over 20 Million Euro in keeping the closed blocks in a state that would enable restart, apart from personnel costs due to keeping staff virtually in tact.

So, the discussion continues, but with gas starting to flow again on January 21, it is clear that chances for re-opening of any of the reactors remain close to zero. Greenpeace in Slovakia and the Green Policy Institute in Bulgaria reminded that larger energy efficiency and the use of renewable sources for heating purposes could prevent crisis situations like the one over the last weeks far cheaper and faster than any nuclear pipe-dreams. All it would need is political will and avoid being side-tracked by lobby groups.

Source: Jan Haverkamp, Greenpeace EU energy campaigner.
Jan Haverkamp, Greenpeace EU energy campaigner.

Andrea Zlatnanska, Greenpeace Slovakia energy campaigner

Petko Kovachev, Green Policy Institute, Sofia



Nuclear Monitor Issue: 


(December 15, 2006) The European Parliament stopped on 30 November attempts from Bulgarian and pro-nuclear politicians to create uncertainty about the final closure date of the Kozloduy blocks 3 and 4. With 269 against 264 votes, the Parliament reiterated its call on Bulgaria to close the two blocks before Bulgaria's EU accession on 31 December 2006 midnight.

(650.5767) WISE Czech Republic - Parliament rapporteur on Bulgaria, British MEP Geoffrey van Orden, tabled a text in Bulgaria's EU accession progress report in which he called for flexibility concerning Kozloduy 3 and 4's closing dates. A few days before the EP plenary threw out the text, the Foreign Commission had accepted it, which was extensively covered and celebrated in the Bulgarian press. Already in March of this year, van Orden tried to smuggle a similar text in his progress report. Also this text was voted out by the plenary of the European Parliament.
When talks about EU accession started with Bulgaria in 1998, the country had to promise to close its four VVER 440/230 reactors in Kozloduy as they were considered too unsafe for upgrading. The EU allowed, nevertheless, a phase-out time provided that certain upgrades would be carried out. End 2002, the blocks 1 and 2 were taken from the grid, switched off and mothballed.

Irreversible closing of block 1 and 2
Many Bulgarian politicians and people from the nuclear energy sector, including consecutive directors of the Kozloduy nuclear power plant, did not like the closure of the reactors and sometimes secretly, sometimes very vocally even held hopes for a re-start of the blocks 1 and 2 as soon as Bulgaria would have entered the EU. Last summer, however, the European Commission heavily criticised Bulgaria for not making the closure of block 1 and 2 irreversible and Bulgaria had to promise steps to do so. A request by Greenpeace for information on concrete measures last September was refused and is currently awaiting court decision. On 7 December, the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Agency in Bulgaria amended the operation licences of block 1 and 2 so that certain vital components can be removed from the reactor. It is not clear, however, whether this would constitute an irreversible closure.

MEPs as lobby
The Bulgarian media give the impression that there has been a years long debate about whether final closure of Kozloduy 3 and 4 should be postponed. Inspection visits of IAEA and WENRA (a non-governmental organisation comprised of the Heads and senior staff members of Nuclear Regulatory Authorities of European countries) were said to have declared the reactors safe enough to operate for a longer time, even though the relative superficial inspections only gave conclusions about operability on that moment. Every visit or sentence from pro-nuclear MEPs like former Scottish Social Democrat MEP Tony Wynn in favour of Kozloduy found wide attention in the Bulgarian media. Voices from, amongst others, Green MEPs during their visits to Bulgaria were hardly covered, if at all. They argued that Kozloduy closure postponement had no chance because it would need a change in the Accession Treaty, an act that needs unanimous support from all present 25 EU Member States. Several countries would veto any prolongation of the lifetime of these dangerous reactors. The distorted media attention lead to a ground-swell in public opinion believing that the European Parliament could and would keep Kozloduy open.
After Wynn left the Parliament after the last elections, his torch was taken over by EPP-ED fraction (Christian Democrats, by far the largest political group in the EP) members Finnish MEP Eija-Riitta Korhola and Slovenian nuclear lobbyist Romana Jordan Cizelj, and the Socialist Edit Herczog from Hungary.

Panic in the Balkans
The last months saw a spreading panic in the entire Balkan region, allegedly because closure of Kozloduy 3 and 4 would lead to energy shortages. In order to prevent unrest in Bulgaria itself, Energy and Economy Minister Rumen Ovcharov reported that there would be no problem for Bulgaria, but that Bulgaria's electricity export clients Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania and Greece might suffer. Macedonia's grid operator MEPSO picked up the argument, diverting attention from its own grid management problems.
In Bulgaria itself a heated debate ensued about whether the closure of Kozloduy 3 and 4 would lead to price increases. On 6 December, the head of the state energy regulator told that prices for households will remain unchanged until July.

Turkey seeking Bulgarian electricity imports
Turkey approached Bulgaria to buy electricity from 2007. It offer as much as 5,7 cent/kWh. It is as to date unclear whether Bulgaria is going to export to Turkey next year or not. If so, this might be a shift of export capacity from the Balkan countries to the East because of price reasons.

Fishing for money
Some observers state that the games around Kozloduy 3 and 4 are played in order to get support for the Belene NPP project, possibly in the form of a Euratom loan. Others point at the requests now made by the Bulgarian government for higher compensation for the "loss" of Kozloduy 3 and 4. Where others would argue that Bulgaria has received already a very lucrative bonus with the EU permission to run the outdated Kozloduy reactors for the last eight years while exposing its population and the rest of Europe to risk, Bulgarian authorities with the help of IAEA calculations argue that Kozloduy could have given Bulgaria still hundreds of millions Euro of income if allowed to continue running even further. They try to claim this from the EU.

Concluding it has to be noted that Bulgaria and its electricity clients had eight years to prepare for Kozloduy 3 and 4's closure. The fact that Bulgaria could export electricity over the last years was mainly because replacement capacity for Kozloduy 1 to 4 was timely developed. The games in the European Parliament and the panic on the last moment seems to be created with other aims in mind. One thing we probably can be sure of: each glitch in the grid in the coming months or even years will probably be blamed on Kozloduy's closure and not on failing grid management.

Source and contact: Jan Haverkamp, consultant for WISE Czech Republic. Nad Borislavkou 58, CZ - 160 00 Praha 6, Czech Republic.
tel./fax (home): +420.2.3536 1734 / mobile: +420.603 569 243