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Za Zemiata helps Bulgaria to break free from nuclear energy

By Dragomira Raeva. Bulgaria’s Parliament has adopted the decision to terminate the construction of the 2000 MW Belene nuclear power plant. This is a great victory for Za Zemiata – EJOLT’s partner organization from Bulgaria, which started as an antinuclear movement back in 1992 within the BeleNe! coalition and has since lead a long and exhaustive campaign against new and existing nuclear power plants in Bulgaria and the CEE region. The Belene project was conceived back in the 1980s and it took more than 30 years to avert decision makers in Bulgaria from its realization. Za Zemiata is extremely happy with the final result, the long struggle merited all the efforts.

On Wednesday 28th, the Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov announced that the Cabinet was to end the deal with Russia’s Atomstroy for the construction of the Belene project and on Thursday, the Parliament followed suit. The reasons for backing off from Belene was that the project was “unfeasible” and too expensive.  The power station was to be built in a seismic active zone, In 1977 at least 120 people lost their lives in an earthquake only 14 km from the planned site in the town of Svishtov. 

Jan Haverkamp, nuclear expert consultant collaborating closely with Za Zemiata: “The Belene project was to be Russia’s Troyan horse into the EU nuclear energy market. Arguments about safety, about its high costs, about its further binding Bulgaria into energy dependency on Russia, all were time and again not taken seriously. Finally, the Bulgarian government has seen that the facts cannot be ignored. This is a great day for all that kept the debate and opposition alive over the 25 years it took from the first ideas to the final out.” 

In 1992, the project was already stopped once after fierce local opposition on environmental grounds and because of an economic downturn after the fall of communism. Greenpeace was invited to support local opposition when the plan to construct Belene was revived in 2002. Za Zemiata had an active role in unveiling the myths around the Belene project by exercising lobby pressure on the strategic investor RWE (49% of shares), who quit the project already in 2009, as well as on potential financiers including financial advisor BNP Paribas, which withdrew its involvement in 2010.

 Reacting on the plans to use the Russian reactor – already produced for Belene – for a new nuclear power station in Kozloduy, Za Zemiata’s energy campaigner Denitza Petrova said: “Belene shows that nuclear power is not a solution, but a problem. Shifting that problem from Belene to Kozloduy will not free us from nuclear energy dependence and its ills, the bad economics and nuclear waste. It is high time, Bulgaria seriously works on alternatives of energy efficiency and renewable energy sources.”

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