Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Bulgaria Closes Nuclear Reactors.

In the interests of accuracy and fair debate, it should be noted that the Bulgarian reactors referred to below, are NOT of the same design as those at Chernobyl, despite many implications that they are the same, but a more modern PWR design with more reliable safety features.

Bulgaria is set to close two more reactors at its Kozloduy nuclear power station. Since Kozloduy generates 40% of Bulgaria's electricity, and supplants around 80% of the growing power shortfalls in its neighbouring southern European states, in terms of its exports, the future looks dim. The European Union has been attempting to coerce the closure of Kozloduy for a number of years, on grounds of fear for its safety. The move will be seen as a strong commitment to Bulgaria's accession to the EU, which it is due to join in the next wave of "enlargement" in 2007 (i.e. next year). Nonetheless, what exactly will be done to supplement the abrupt disengagement of such a large proportion of Balkan electricity remains a "black-hole", which senior officials are staring into, but no illumination escapes from it.

Bulgaria's electricity production will drop in 2007, until a second nuclear plant is built - expected in 2012 (the year of the "London Olympics") - and is anticipated to cover 60% of South East Europe's electricity imports. A new 670 MW coal-fired power plant (Maritsa Iztok 1) is being constructed by the American company AES, and is expected to be up and running by 2010 - 2011, which, if on schedule, will take the edge of Bulgaria's export limitations. It looks like a frugal three or four years, though, at best.

To bridge the gap meanwhile, Bulgaria intends to rely on a hydroelectric power installation (Tsanikov Kamuk) and a gas-fired plant in the capital, Sofia. Together, some 210 MW capacity will be thus secured. Reactors 1 and 2 were closed at Kozloduy some years ago, and so the planned closure of the remaining two (reactors 3 and 4) of the "old" design (440 MW each) leaves two more modern reactors running with an output of 1000 MW each. Mardik Papazyan, who is the executive director of the National Electric Company (NEC) has said that if one of the two remaining Kozloduy reactors should fail to operate, electricity could be imported from Romania and Serbia. It is interesting, however, that these are two of the southern European nations who currently depend on Bulgarian electricity exports, and so it is difficult to see how they might do this, especially while trying to meet their own rising demand for electricity.

At longer odds, Bulgaria is placing bets on the construction of a new 2000 MW nuclear power plant at Belene.The seriousness of the situation is voiced plainly by Papazyan who is quoted as saying, "without Belene, we cannot guarantee that Bulgaria will not need to import electricity after 2013-2015" (and this is after the initial "new" plant is built in 2012). He also confirmed that with Belene, 60% of Bulgaria's power exports could still be met, and that the plant could be built in six years time: the main contractor for it will be selected by early August.

The Maritsa Iztok 1 coal-fired power plant is the biggest single foreign investment so far made in Bulgaria, and is one of the largest greenfield initiatives in South east Europe. The plant will be situated near the town of Gulubovo in south eastern Bulgaria (for geographical comparison, Kozloduy is located in the north of the country, near to the border with Romania.). The base load operation will serve to provide electricity for Bulgaria and South East Europe, including Serbia. A "clean-combustion" technology will be employed, and 12% of the investment is to provide desulphurisation plants. The coal-fired plant Maritsa Iztok 3 also looks set for a windfall, as the Italian company Enel is considering making an investment of over 500 million Euro's to build an additional 900 MW unit to supplement the 840 MW plant that is there currently.

The whole issue of energy control in Bulgaria is one of potential political power, since whoever owns and operates either the nuclear Belene or the "clean-coal" fired Maritsa Iztok (whichever comes first, and probably the latter) will have the considerable advantage of a carte-blanc to trade electricity all over the southern European region. However the cards fall, there will be some lean years to be negotiated, immediately following the loss of output from the closed reactors 3 and 4 at Kozloduy.

For an update regarding this story, please see later article: "Bulgarian Reactors are Not of Chernobyl Design", posted February 29th, 2008.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Chernobyl nuclear power plant
The station consisted of four reactors of type RBMK-1000
RBMK is an acronym for the Russian reaktor bolshoy moshchnosti kanalniy (Russian: Реактор Большой Мощности Канальный) which means "reactor (of) high power (of the) channel (type)", and describes a now obsolete class of graphite-moderated nuclear power reactor which was built only in the Soviet Union. The RBMK reactor was the type involved in the Chernobyl accident.
NPP Kozloduy
The first stage is completed with the construction of units 1 and 2 equipped with pressurized water reactors of 440 MW electrical capacity - WWER-440, model V-230. The units are put in commercial operation respectively in July 1974 and November 1975.
In parallel with Units 1 and 2, in October 1973 a construction is started of another two units which represents the second stage of the capacities commissioning. Units 3 and 4 are put in commercial operation correspondingly in December 1980 and may 1982. The reactors installed are WWER-440, enhanced model V-230 with improved safety systems and stainless cladding of the reactor pressure vessels.
The commissioning of Units 5 and 6 with reactors WWER-1000/V-320 (the third stage) is completed in September 1988 and December 1993. The new units are equipped with a reinforced concrete containment and systems for automation of the technological processes.

Bulgarian government should put you in the court of law for spreading false information. That much for your lays.

energybalance said...

I take it that it is the word "Chernobyl" you object to. So in order not to cause you further offence, I shall remove it.

Nonetheless that was precisely how this subject was referred to in the press at the time, and safety at Kozloduy is a controversial issue is it not, along with the other reactors I refer to?

I am pleased to hear that these reactors are so much safer than the RBMX.

You should check the newspaper reports closer to the time this was written. You can't put everybody in court who is concerned about the safety of nuclear reactors, especially as they begin to age.

These reactors in Bulgaria were closed were they not, or was I misinformed?

energybalance said...

I take it that it is the word "Chernobyl" you object to. So in order not to cause you further offence, I shall remove it.

Nonetheless that was precisely how this subject was referred to in the press at the time, and safety at Kozloduy is a controversial issue is it not, along with the other reactors I refer to?

I am pleased to hear that these reactors are so much safer than the RBMX.

You should check the newspaper reports closer to the time this was written. You can't put everybody in court who is concerned about the safety of nuclear reactors, especially as they begin to age.

These reactors in Bulgaria were closed were they not, or was I misinformed?

Anonymous said...

"You can't put everybody in court who is concerned about the safety of nuclear reactors, especially as they begin to age."

I will put in court everybody who is spreading false information.
Your blog has been seen by at least 40 000 people and for 2 years statistically at least half a million got the idea that Bulgaria has Chernobyl type of reactors - so how this damage to the Bulgarian image can be rectified?

The reactors in Bulgaria are not more dangerous than the French reactors and in a lot of cases younger than the French one – so if you are really concerned about the safety look at your French neighbor first.

Looks like I have to register but I am to busy building power plants in America.

energybalance said...

Sadly, it was a Bulgarian newspaper which carried (30th January 2006; i.e. before mine) an article (http://www.sofiaecho.com/article/
bulgarias-energy-industry-risks-power-drain/id_13295/catid_23)

with the text: "
Under the accession treaty with the EU, by the end of 2006 Bulgaria has to close two of its generating units at Kozlodui nuclear power station. The units, the same type that were in use at Chernobyl, are considered unsafe."

And this was where much misunderstanding was created. Perhaps closer to home is where such matters should be rectified. You may also note a recent article (January 17th 2008) in the same newspaper (http://www.sofiaecho.com/article/bulgarias-government-negotiating-to-open-kozloduy-npp-units-3-and-4/id_27119/catid_66)

to which is appended a comment, "It would be stupid to open these two reactors again, they were closed for a good reason, which is that they are very dangerous, and potentially lethal to thousands. For investors in Bulgaria, they will be put off, especially if they know just how dangerous the reactors are, how stupid it would be and greedy, to reopen them."

Armed with the truth, I have put the record straight, and that I think is what newspapers should do too. How many people read the Sofia Echo? Probably a few million.

It was also unfortunate that a US based site has lumped Kozloduy along with Chernobyl and other reactors, irrespective of their precise design, on a list of the world's 10 most dangerous (www.american.edu/TED/bulgarnk.htm). This is also highly misleading.

I am grateful to you for pointing out that Bulgaria does not use RBMK, and I have put this to rights now in my most recent posting on the subject.

So, the large readership you refer too (is it really that many?) is now is possession of the truth. I assure you I will correct anyone else who is misinformed about the matter.

You are building NPP's in America? Yes, my impression is that you are an expert on the subject.

Your point is taken about the relative safety of reactors in general, French, British, Bulgarian or otherwise.

Anonymous said...

"sofiaecho"

That describes everything – I had to correct them as well – and I thing it was the time and the article you mention.
I thing all the points are taken and I wish you good luck.

A Bulgarian building power plants in America

energybalance said...

Good! I hate it when false information is inadvertently distributed. That is one down-side of the internet.

I'm glad we have got the truth out there now!

By the way, do I really get 40,000 hits ( a month?). Can I ask, did you run some programme to find that figure - I have no idea how many read it, but that sounds like a lot?

I have colleagues in Bulgaria, where I have visited a number of times, and I am also slightly involved with the Metsamor reactor in Armenia.

I wish you all the very best of luck too.

Chris.

Anonymous said...

;-) You have a program on the bottom of your page – site meter – when I saw it at the time I was writing, the number was 65 000 approximately.
So I assume that about 40 000 hit on this article from 2006 till now and obviously each of the people talk to a friends that way you have approximately half a million.

DB