Failed Referendum Leaves Bulgaria Without Nuclear Future

From RT.com

A referendum on nuclear energy in Bulgaria failed due to low turnout, and the country’s ruling party has confirmed it will not build a new nuclear plant. Critics warn that without nuclear energy, Bulgaria may become a third-world country in 20 years.

The referendum, which was supposed to determine the future course of nuclear energy in Bulgaria, has been officially declared invalid: The final voter turnout was about 20 percent, far less than the required 60 percent.

Nearly 61 percent of voters who participated in Sunday’s referendum approved of building the nuclear plant.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov confirmed that his ruling center-right GERB party would not resume construction on a nuclear power plant in Belene.

In March 2012, the GERB party scrapped the 2,000-megawatt nuclear plant project, which had been under construction by Russia’s Atomstroyexport since 2008. The Bulgarian government said that the country could no longer afford the plant’s 6.4-billion euro price tag.

During the negotiations that preceded the cancellation, GERB attempted to bring an American or European contractor on to the project. Bulgaria also demanded that the price be lowered to less than 5 billion euro, which Atomstroyexport refused to do. A breakdown in negotiations led to the termination of the project.

Following the failure of the project, the opposition Socialist party called for a referendum on the Belene plant. Though the government supported the referendum, Prime Minister Borisov urged Bulgarians to vote against the project.

“The question [of the referendum] was put pretty vaguely, no one explained to an average voter the particulars of nuclear energy,” Krasimira Ilieva of the Bulgarian Nuclear Society told RT.

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