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EC to back completion of Bulgaria's Belene NPP project - Timmermans

Author Vasil Kolchev
EC to back completion of Bulgaria's Belene NPP project - Timmermans European Commission headquarters in Brussels; Author: Radomir Ralev

SOFIA (Bulgaria), October 18 (SeeNews) - The European Commission will support Bulgaria if the country decides to complete the project for construction of a new nuclear power plant (NPP) in Belene, Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans said, as Sofia prepares to negotiate with the EU executive a target deadline for closing down polluting coal-fired power plants.

"We will be at Bulgaria's side and will watch for this to be a safe power plant. But I hope - I tell each one of the governments: make a sensible decision, check the numbers, see what the positives and negatives are, and make a decision which we will support you for," Timmermans, who is in charge of the European Green Deal, told local bTV in an interview on Friday.

In January, local news outlet reported that Bulgaria has not called off a tender for the selection of a strategic investor in the Belene NPP project, set to include two Russian-made units of 1000 MW each, despite a decision earlier that month to explore options to use the existing equipment for the plant in a new unit at the existing Kozloduy NPP instead. Last year, Bulgaria shortlisted Russia's Rosatom, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) and Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Corporation (KHNP) in the tender for a strategic investor in Belene NPP.

Timmermans stressed there is no future in coal, adding that globally, more and more countries believe in this and act accordingly.

"What we have to ensure, however, is a better future for people living in regions where there is coal mining," he said.

Timmermans also told bTV he cannot say whether the year 2040 is an acceptable target deadline for phasing out coal in electricity generation in Bulgaria before he has seen the country's Recovery and Sustainability Plan that the government submitted to the Commission on Friday.

"The longer we wait, the more expensive it will be for us," Timmermans noted.

Bulgaria's caretaker government said on Wednesday that it will propose to the Commission the year 2038 as a target deadline to close down the country's four coal-fired power plants that generate 39% of Bulgaria's gross electricity consumption in 2019, with 2040 set as an alternative deadline.

Bulgaria's sole Kozloduy NPP has two Soviet-made operating units of 1000 MW. The plant generates electricity that meets more than a third of Bulgaria's electricity needs, according to the power plant's website.