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Economy

Liability Question Hangs Up Greek-Bulgaria Plan for Nuclear Power Plant

ATHENS – Greece’s plan to get nuclear energy from Bulgaria and help that country build another power plant to supply it are stuck for now over who would be liable in case of an accident, said EURACTIV.

The specter of the Chernobyl catastrophe in Ukraine in 1986 still looms, even decades later, as negotiations on another nuclear plant in Bulgaria – which relies on Russian expertise – have caused some worry.

The idea was first announced by Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Asen Vassilev after returning from a visit to Greece in February, where they met Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

EURACTIV said it learned that the two countries will wait for a 12-month expert study, during which time Bulgaria’s ruling coalition will have to agree on the new power plant.

Vassilev earlier said that the goal is to sign a 20-year agreement with Greece to use Bulgaria’s nuclear power and he said the plant should be built “extremely quickly” as there’s a buyer for electricity.

But no price has been set, no other details on how would build it and if the project could be done sooner than the minimum deadline of six to eight years as the European Union wants to get off Russian gas by the end of 2027.

Bulgaria will not be able to use two already-bought Russian nuclear reactors because their installation will not be possible without Russian participation, now barred by EU sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine.

An economic study by the British bank HSBC for the project for the second nuclear power plant in Bulgaria in 2012 showed it would cost 10 billion euros ($10.87 billion) and the electricity would cost 75 euros ($81.55) per megawatt hour. Bulgarian Minister of Energy Alexander Nikolov said the project could be built quickly only by using the existing nuclear power plant site in Kozloduy.

Sources not named told the site that the big hang up for now between Greece and Bulgaria is who would be responsible for an accident in a shared project although the plant would be in Bulgaria.

“There is no scheme under which the responsibility can be transferred proportionally to another state – according to the Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage (…) It is necessary to clarify the mechanism by which Greece wants to get involved in the project  – as a shareholder or only as a buyer of electricity,” the source said.

“The Greeks are aware of the internal problems, and the negotiations must be conducted very carefully,” the source also added.

Sources from the Greek Environment and Energy Ministry told EURACTIV Greece that the project talks are still premature but highlighted the long-term cooperation with Bulgaria, emphasizing the principle of reciprocity.

“If Bulgaria needs electricity, we have to help them as they do,” an Environment Ministry source not named also said.

The sources said that Greece’s role in the nuclear project would “either be that of facilitator for the purchase of energy from Greek industrial customers or any other mutual interest will be considered.”

The site said that a second power interconnection between Greece and Bulgaria would likely be established soon, increasing the capacity from 500 MW to 1600 MW in the interim.

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