Sofia snubs renewable energy sources in favor of a new nuclear facility

SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgaria should push ahead with plans to build a new nuclear power plant, rather than opt for wind and solar power to solve its energy problems, the economy and energy minister said yesterday. Petar Dimitrov told a conference that estimates showed that his Balkan country’s wind power potential was equal to the capacity of 2,000 megawatts of its Kozloduy nuclear power plant, which supplies about 33 percent of Bulgaria’s power. «It’s more important for Bulgaria to build (the new nuclear power plant in) Belene rather than cover the country with wind turbines and solar panels,» the minister said. The Balkan country has contracted Russia’s Atomstroyexport, controlled by gas giant Gazprom, along with French Areva and Germany’s Siemens to build the over 4-billion-euro ($6.02 billion) Belene unit by 2014. The project aims to restore Bulgaria’s position as a major Balkan power exporter after being forced to shut down four of Kozloduy’s older Soviet nuclear reactors in the past four years to win European Union membership. Kozloduy now has two reactors of 1,000 MW each. Bulgaria is among the countries in the European Union which see nuclear energy as part of the future energy mix and a solution to climate change as proponents say atomic power emits almost no greenhouse gas emissions. But critics say it is not worth the risk because of huge capital costs and unsolved problems with nuclear waste and safety concerns. Dimitrov did not say how exactly Bulgaria would meet the European Union target to boost renewable energy’s share to 20 percent of all power by 2020 but said his country should rely on its hydropower potential to meet increasing energy demand.