Nuclear profits sustain Bulgaria in gas crisis

28 October 2021

Profits from Bulgaria's Kozloduy nuclear power plant are being redirected to provide subsidies of BGN110 (USD65) per MWh to industry. Some 630,000 industrial consumers will receive the benefit to protect them from power prices driven by gas.

Two large VVER-1000s operate at Kozloduy, while four smaller VVER-440s are in decommissioning

The measures were announced on 21 October by Prime Minister Stefan Yanev in a national address. He said the subsidy "will benefit over 630,000 non-residential end consumers" with the grant distributed automatically thanks to a contract between the government and the retail electricity suppliers, including the suppliers of last resort that have stepped in after other energy firms went bust.

The benefit will be backdated from 1 October and will last until 30 November, at an estimated cost of BGN450 million. Yanev said, "The funds will be provided from the state budget at the expense of the presentation of grants amounting to BGN450 million from Kozloduy nuclear power plant." He added, "In the next reporting year, the dividend due to be paid by [Kozloduy's owner] Bulgarian Energy Holding will be reduced by the indicated amount."

The upgraded subsidy improves on measures Yanev discussed on 19 October when speaking on TV1, which would have covered 250,000 businesses with a BGN30 per MWh payment. At the time, Yanev said subsidies would "support the economically weaker companies, which are also the largest employer in the country."

Having had elections in April and July this year but failed to form a government each time, Yanev and his cabinet are caretakers ahead of another election on 14 November. This means there is no functioning parliament and the government is not able to make any laws. "We hear the voice of everyone - the workers, the consumers of their goods, the employers. We know what the problems are and we are looking for solutions. They cannot appear with a magic wand," Yanev said.

Kozloduy is a large nuclear power plant in the northwest of Bulgaria on the Danube River that provides about 34% of the country's electricity. It features two VVER-1000 units in operation and four VVER-440 units which are being decommissioned.

Facing the need to phase out coal - which provides 40% of electricity - while also maintaining energy security, Bulgarian policymakers would like to expand nuclear capacity either at Kozloduy or at Belene, a new site also on the Danube. However, in a recent interview with Trud newspaper the chaiman of the Bulgarian Atomic Forum, Bogomil Manchev, said: "There is no longer an option for either one project or the other. The 'or' has disappeared."

Bulgaria is keen for the European Commission to decide positively that nuclear power can be included in its taxonomy of sustainable investments and is a member of the ten-nation 'Nuclear Alliance' of EU countries calling for this. Yanev raised the issue with the Vice President of the European Commission, Franz Timmermans, who visited Bulgaria earlier this month.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News