One of the world’s most dangerous nuclear power plants, mothballed after international protests, may be reopened because of the Russian gas row, it emerged yesterday.
Bulgaria suffered a complete cut-off of overland gas supplies yesterday, drawn into the growing dispute between Russia and Ukraine.
Its president reacted by calling for the Kozloduy reactor to be reopened.
The plant was shut on January 1, 2007, under an agreement with the European Union.
“We are facing a serious natural gas crisis in which Bulgaria is a victim of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine,” Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev said after an emergency cabinet meeting.
The US Department of Energy has branded the reactor one of the world’s most dangerous nuclear installations.
Kozloduy was built 25 years ago by the Russians to an outmoded design which has no protective shell to stop any radiation leak going straight into the environment.
Two cities in eastern Bulgaria, Varna and Dobrich, have been left without natural gas supplies. In Varna, on the Black Sea coast, the shortage left 12,000 households without central heating amid freezing temperatures.
President Georgi Parvanov said the Kozloduy reactor could be brought on line within a month if necessary.
Ukraine and Russia announced they will hold new talks to end the gas dispute that has cut off Russian gas to five other countries. Both are locked in a dispute over pricing and overdue payments, and Russia cut Ukraine off on January 1 but had promised to keep gas moving to Europe.
Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Croatia and Turkey all reported a halt in gas shipments. Croatia said it was temporarily reducing supplies to industrial customers and Bulgaria said it had enough gas for only “for a few days”.
During a similar dispute between Ukraine and Russia in 2006, which lasted just three days, several west European countries saw their gas supplies drop by 30% or more. That crisis led to criticism of Russia as an unreliable energy partner and spurred talk of finding ways to diversify Europe’s energy supply.
Other countries lost significant amounts of gas as well. Austria lost 90% of its Russian gas, which is about half its total supply. It said it had three months’ reserves but called an emergency meeting at its Economy Ministry.
The European Union called the sudden cut-off to some of its member countries “completely unacceptable”.
In a strongly-worded statement, the EU complained that gas had been cut “without prior warning and in clear contradiction with the reassurances given by the highest Russian and Ukrainian authorities to the European Union”.
The EU said previously the dispute would not affect consumers in the coming weeks. The sudden drop yesterday, however, increased the diplomatic pressure to find a solution.