Bulgaria To Stress Test Nuke Plant

SOFIA (AFP) – Bulgaria launched preparations Tuesday for a “stress test” of its sole nuclear power plant at Kozloduy, following EU safety concerns brought on by Japan’s tsunami-damaged nuclear plant.

The checks at the two 1,000-megawatt reactors at Kozloduy will be based on seven basic criteria — location of the plant, risk from flooding, cooling systems, reserve capacities, exploitation life, type of reactors and risk from terrorist attacks — the government’s press office said in a statement.

It did not elaborate on the tests or their tentative start date, except to say that the cooling systems checks would focus on “construction.”

“The International Atomic Energy Agency will be notified about the tests’ preparation, and experts from the agency will be invited to oversee them,” the statement added.

EU states agreed last Tuesday to conduct “stress tests” on all 143 reactors in Europe to ward off risks of a major nuclear crisis like the one triggered by a tsunami at Japan’s Fukushima power plant.

The tests were to be conducted on a “voluntary” basis, EU ministers and national nuclear safety chiefs agreed.

“In the event of additional requirements for safety checks on the part of the EU, Bulgaria is ready to implement more testing mechanisms to guarantee the safety of its nuclear power plant,” Sofia said Tuesday.

Bulgaria has only two 1,000-megawatt pressurised water reactors operational at Kozloduy, in the north, after four smaller Soviet-built blocs had to be shut down over safety concerns ahead of the country’s entry into the European Union in 2007.

To compensate for the lost capacity, Bulgaria has been planning a second nuclear plant at Belene on the Danube, but talks with Russian constructor Atomstroyexport remain bogged down over financing issues.