Bulgaria and USA agree to nuclear cooperation

29 September 2020

The USA and Bulgaria recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on civil nuclear cooperation. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov noted that nuclear energy is one of the "greenest and cleanest" energies and that is why the country wants to use "safer technology of the latest generation" and to achieve diversification of nuclear fuel.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Borissov (right) and US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo at the MoU signing ceremony (Image: Council of Ministers)

The MoU was signed on 23 October by Bulgarian Minister of Energy Temenujka Petkova and the Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of International Security and Non-Proliferation of the US State Department Christopher Ford. It was signed in the presence of Prime Minister Borissov and US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, who joined via video conference.

In a statement, the US Department of State said the Memorandum of Understanding Concerning Strategic Civil Nuclear Cooperation (NCMOU) "will further strengthen the diplomatic and economic ties between our two nations. This NCMOU bolsters our bilateral strategic relationship while deepening our cooperation on energy security."

It noted that NCMOUs are "diplomatic mechanisms that strengthen and expand strategic ties between the United States and a partner country by providing a framework for cooperation on civil nuclear issues and for engagement between experts from government, industry, national laboratories, and academic institutions." This is the third nuclear cooperation agreement signed by the USA and eastern European countries in recent weeks. It signed a draft cooperation agreement with Romania on 9 October and an agreement with Poland on 19 October.

The Bulgarian Council of Ministers said: "With the document, Bulgaria and the United States are committed to the responsible use of nuclear energy and technology with an emphasis on human capital and labour development, education, training, to maintain the highest standards and practices in the field of nuclear safety and security." It noted that Bulgaria has an "interest in new secure nuclear energy technologies for civilian purposes developed by the United States."

Petkova said the MoU will provide a new impetus and a good basis for future energy cooperation between the two countries. "The document will also contribute to the implementation of our main priority for achieving diversification of energy sources," he said. "Nuclear energy is of strategic importance to us, as it guarantees energy security and will contribute to achieving the goals of reducing carbon emissions."

Bulgaria intends to expand its nuclear programme "with secure technologies of the latest generation" in order to meet the EU's Green Deal for Climate Neutrality by 2050, the Council of Ministers said. "The goal of the European Green Deal cannot be achieved without the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes," it said. "For Bulgaria, nuclear energy plays an important role in national, regional and European energy security, while providing energy at affordable prices and is a key element in the transition to a low-carbon economy."

The signing of the MoU follows a meeting at the White House in November last year between US President Donald Trump and Borissov. At that time, they issued a joint statement saying the USA intended to send a technical team to Bulgaria to explore the possibilities for further cooperation in different areas of energy, including nuclear. The two leaders also expressed support for the licensing and use of US nuclear fuel for Bulgaria's Kozloduy nuclear power plant.

Bulgaria's two operating Russian-designed VVER nuclear reactors at Kozloduy generate about one-third of the country's electricity. Last year, the country's government invited strategic investment in a 2000 MWe nuclear power plant at Belene in northern Bulgaria, including the construction of two 1000 MWe units, each using the Russian VVER-1000/V-466 design.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News