Polls indicated that 60 percent of voters in Bulgaria supported a referendum on construction of a new nuclear plant, but low turnout could threaten the measure's impact.Last March work stopped on the two-unit Belene nuclear plant after the ruling coalition in Bulgaria's Parliament decided to abandon the project amid disputes over its costs, financing and potential benefits. The opposition Socialist Party then moved to put the question of building the plant on Sunday's ballot. Polling reported by the Sofia Globe indicated a solid majority of voters supported the project, but turnout was estimated at roughly 20 percent. At a 20 percent voter turnout rate, the measure would be forwarded to Parliament for consideration. With less than a 20 percent turnout rate, though, election laws suggest the results would be largely meaningless. Its political impact is complicated further by a faction of voters who argued the referendum was pointless and boycotted the election.Ultimately, the fate of Belene still depends on Bulgarian politicians, resolution of a cost dispute with contractor Atomstroyexport, and the ability to put together further financing for the project. The government suggested last year that one of the reactors partially completed at Belene could be installed at the neighboring Kozloduy nuclear plant, according to the World Nuclear Association. A month later the government also approved development of a new unit at Kozloduy but did not announce whether it would use equipment already installed at Belene, which would be technically difficult.
UPDATE Jan 29: The final vote count put the referendum turnout at 20.22 percent, the Sofia News Service has reported, enough to send the measure for a vote in Parliament. But as Reuters noted today, the ruling party in the Bulgarian government has reiterated its plans to build a new unit at Kozluduy while abandoning the Belene project. Should the opposition Socialist Party win elections in July, it would reconsider that decision.
Nuclear Street News Team