Environmental oranisations condemn EC opinion on Belene NPP

Monday, December 10, 2007

18:05 Mon 10 Dec 2007 - Rene Beekman

Environmental organisations Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth Europe, Urgewald, Bankwatch, WISE and the Bulgarian NGO coalition BeleNE! condemned on December 10 the European Commission´s (EC) favourable opinion on the Belene nuclear power project (NPP) in Bulgaria, a media statement by the organisations said.

Jan Haverkamp, Greenpeace EU, said that "despite all the warnings by environmentalists and nuclear experts, the Commission has opened the possibility for public funding to a reactor that puts European citizens at risk. This is a disgrace."

Two weeks earlier, nuclear expert Gueorgui Kastchiev presented his concerns regarding the Belene NPP to the EC. "The Belene project poses intolerable safety and environmental risks," Kastiev said.

Among the problems cited by Kastchiev were design problems, a lack of operational experience with the planned reactor type, a lack of qualified personnel and effective controls and the lack of a strategy to deal with spent fuel. "If one factors in the high seismic risks of the location and the low level of the nuclear safety culture in Bulgaria, it can only lead to one conclusion: This project must be stopped as soon as possible," the media statement quoted Kastchiev as saying.

Daniël Meijers from Friends of the Earth Europe warned of the precedent this decision might create. "Euratom has not provided a loan for the construction of new reactors in more than 20 years, and this would be the very first time it supports the construction of Russian reactors within the EU," Meijers said.

Petko Kovachev of the Bulgarian coalition of environmental NGOs BeleNE!, said "over the past two weeks, about 30 000 Europeans have addressed their concerns to commissioner Piebalgs. We will continue protesting against this dangerous project."

On December 7, the EC issued its favourable opinion on the project, saying that it held extensive discussions with the nuclear operator and that it concluded that the aspects of the investment in question were in line with objectives of the Euratom Treaty. According to the EC, NEC had addressed future costs for decommissioning of the NPP in its financial provisions, as well as segregated funds for the management of radioactive waste during the NPP's life cycle.

A favourable opinion by the EC on the project would be one of the requirements if Bulgaria would decide to request a Euratom loan. The request would be evaluated on its own, economic, financial and environmental merits, the EC said on December 7.

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