Greenpeace International: NGOs criticise Bulgarian state propaganda on Belene
Bulgarian and international NGOs today asked the EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes to investigate the tendering procedures for the construction of the Belene nuclear power plant in northern Bulgaria. They also criticised the propaganda war that the Bulgarian government is waging in order to hide the problems around the project. Ten activists presented Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev with a toy dragline, pointing out that playing around with nukes wastes time for serious energy policy.
A group of 18 Bulgarian and two international NGOs (1) sent a letter to EU Commissioner Kroes with the request to investigate the tendering process of subcontractors in the Belene nuclear power station project. According to media statements, subcontracts worth around 1 Billion Euro are to be granted without tender to Bulgarian companies. The groups ask Commissioner Kroes to investigate whether such tendering is not breaking EU competition legislation and might give the nuclear power project an illegitimate advantage. They also express concerns about possible corruption and lack of transparency. "This is more proof that it is impossible to build a nuclear power station within normal rules", commented Jan Haverkamp, Greenpeace EU energy specialist.
The allegations come in the wake of increasing financial problems for the project. "Banks are weary of investing in nuclear projects because of the high risks involved. The cost of nuclear construction projects in Finland and France are ballooning. The Bulgarian government has huge problems finding financing for Belene. It should be made clear that opening the door to corruption only makes things worse."
Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev and Economy and Energy Minister Petar Dimitrov officially started construction at the Belene site only one week ago. The groups strongly criticise the way the Bulgarian government took the opportunity to spread propaganda about Belene. "Government propaganda only serves to hide the reality of the project, which has stalled because of lack of finance, confusion in the design, and seismic activity in the area where the plant is being built," said Petko Kovachev, director of the Green Policy Institute, a think tank based in Sofia. "It is embarrassing to see how the government tries to manipulate facts."
According to the groups, last week the government spread false information about the need for Belene, its benefit for battling climate change, the costs of the project, the position of the European Union on the project, its safety and about the participation of Bulgarian engineers in the project (2).
Greenpeace's Haverkamp said: "By staging a communist-style propaganda campaign, Bulgarian officials do their country a huge disservice. By choosing the nuclear path, the Bulgarian economy now faces large financial risks and enormous uncertainties about whether at all, and if ever, electricity from Belene will become available. In the meantime fast and flexible development of the energy sector has completely stalled." Kovachev added: "The government is attempting to dumb down its own people. Last week's propaganda surge is an utter disgrace."
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Jan Haverkamp - Greenpeace EU policy campaigner energy
- tel.: +359 888 311 690, +32 477 790 416 (this week in Bulgaria)
Petko Kovachev - Green Policy Institute, BeleNE! coalition, CEE Bankwatch
tel.: +359 888 420 453
NOTES FOR THE EDITOR
(1) The BeleNE coalition consists of the National movement "Ekoglasnost","Ekoglasnost" Montana, Center for Environmental Education and Information, Association "Earth Forever" - Svishtov, Committee for ecological-economical defense of Svishtov, Foundation for agriculture and environment - Pleven, Environmental association "For the Earth", ECO- CLUB 2000, Environmental association "Demetra", GeoEcoClub "Akademika" Veliko Tarnovo, Green Policy Institute, InfoECOclub-Vratsa, Center for Environmental Law, Regional movement "EkoSouthWest", Union of the experts on parks and landscape, Regional union of the farmers - Valchedrum, Association "Civil alternative" - Elin Pelin, Environmental association "Tetida" - Blagoevgrad.
The international organisations are Greenpeace and the CEE Bankwatch Network
(2) The groups criticised the government of spreading false information on:
- The need for the Belene nuclear power plant
In spite of the closure of four nuclear blocks in Kozloduy, Bulgaria is still a major exporter of electricity in the region. To Focus News Agency, Energy Minister Dimitrov stated last week that Bulgaria earns as much from electricity exports as it did before the closure of Kozloduy 3 and 4. Bulgaria furthermore can improve its position in the short term by investing in energy efficiency, decentralised heat-and-power co-generation and motivating investments in renewable energy sources. Saying that "the Balkan region suffers from systematic shortage of nuclear energy" (Prime Minister Stanishev to Focus News Agency) is factually wrong. It suffers from a systematic lack of proper energy policy.
- Belene and the climate
According to press agency BTA, Stanishev said last week, that "Without development of nuclear power, it is impossible to halt adverse climate change." In reality, projects like Belene are a barrier to investments into flexible modern energy structures based on efficiency, decentralisation and renewable energy sources and therefore block solutions to climate change. Greenpeace clearly showed this in its energy [r]evolution scenario. Contrary to that, the Bulgarian government has never done any scenario planning into the impacts of its (lack of) energy policy. The energy [r]evolution scenario can be found on http://www.energyblueprint.info
- Costs of Belene
Stanishev said last week that in 2007 Bulgaria had spent 70 million leva on nuclear fuel and more than three billion leva on oil products. "That is why it is important to stake on nuclear energy as economically more profitable for the industry." Apart from the fact that nuclear power cannot replace oil, which is mainly used for transport, chemical industry and heating and virtually not for electricity production, the bulk of the nuclear bill consists of construction costs for nuclear power plants. The government continues to use the figure of 4 Billion Euro that represents the construction contract with Atomstroyexport, although it warns that this might go up because of rising resource costs. It refuses to mention the full construction cost, that according to utility NEK will be around 7 Billion Euro.
- Belene and the EU
According to Stanishev, "The project enjoys the full support of the European Union." The European Union is not allowed to support nuclear power, as this is a national sovereign issue, nor has it ever openly supported Belene. Apart from that, it is difficult to find out what the European Union thinks because the Bulgarian government is blocking the full public release of the Opinion of the European Commission under the Euratom Treaty art. 41 - 43. The only piece Bulgaria accepted publication of shows that the opinion of the Commission was based on highly contested information on seismic risk used in the Environmental Impact Assessment.
- Safety of Belene
Energy Minister Dimitrov stated according Sofia News Agency that the Belene plant would be a third generation nuclear power plant with a zero risk for failures. This is simply not true. Human failure, targeted sabotage or attack as well as not foreseen technical problems leave for every nuclear power station design a rest risk.
- Participation of Bulgarian engineers in the project
Prime Minister Stanishev stated: "I am proud of Bulgarian power engineers, who are capable of developing such a complicated design" (BTA). The design was developed by Russian engineers. In reality, the project will create only little Bulgarian jobs, as there is a lack of sufficiently educated and skilled specialised construction personnel in the country. There are plans to bring over hundreds of Russian, Chinese and Vietnamese workers for Belene.
Greenpeace EU policy campaigner dirty energy
expert on energy issues in Central Europe
tel. Brussels: +32 2 27419 21
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GREENPEACE EU Unit