Bulgaria prefers nuclear to wind, solar power-EconMin

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

SOFIA, Feb 27 (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 on Wednesday.

Petar Dimitrov told a conference 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 of) 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 Belene by 2014.

The project aims to restore Bulgaria's position as a major power exporter in the Balkans 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 EU target to boost renewable energy's share to 20 percent of all power by 2020 but said his country should rely on its hydro-power potential to meet increasing energy demand.

Bulgaria and neighbouring Romania were considering building two hydro-power plants of 420 MW each at the towns of Nikopol and Turnu Magurele on the river Danube and two other units of 285 MW each at Silistra and Calarasi on the Danube.

"The Romanian side agrees that these are good projects. The only thing that could stop them is politicians' sluggishness in the two countries," Dimitrov said.

He added Bulgaria was yet to decide whether to go head with plans to build a new coal-fired power plant of between 600 and 800 MW at its Maritsa East power complex, which provides about 30 percent of the country's electricity.

The minister said yet another coal-fired plant might turn out to be expensive given EU requirements to reduce CO2 emissions and make those that emit over the limit pay for it. (Reporting by Anna Mudeva; editing by James Jukwey)

(c) Reuters 2008 All rights reserved.

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