Bulgarian prime minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha said on 22 January that the country would comply with the European Union demand to shut down units 3 and 4 of Kozloduy in 2006. Prior to his statement, decommissioning of the reactors was planned to begin in 2008.
Later, the former king said that his remarks had been misinterpreted. "I only said that we will try to make every effort to take into consideration what Europe wants from us. This did not mean dates, compromises or pre-determined decisions.".
The country's chief negotiator with the EU, Meglena Kuneva, claimed that there is no policy to close the reactors in 2006. "Even I, as chief negotiator, am not mandated to hold such negotiations, and so far the government has not at all discussed such a mandate," she said, pointing out that the national position will be outlined after adoption of a national strategy for development of the energy sector, which is expected by the end of March.
President Georgi Purvanov echoed this view. "Political comments could be made only after preparation of Bulgaria's new energy strategy." He said that he was "disturbed" by the differences inside the government on the issue of the closure of the reactors.
Chairman of the National Assembly Power Generation Commission and deputy chairman of the Simeon II National Movement parliamentary floor group, Veselin Bliznakov, said the reactors could be used beyond 2006 and that the terms are yet to be agreed upon.
According to a memorandum of understanding between Bulgaria and the European Commission, signed on 29 November, 1999, Bulgaria should close units 3 and 4 in 2008 and 2010, respectively, but in the last two annual reports on Bulgaria the commission insisted it should be in 2006 at the latest.
Earlier last month, energy minister Milko Kovachev said Bulgaria would fight to delay the closure of the units until 2008 for unit 3 and 2010 for unit 4. Bulgaria had a role to play in the stability of the region, he said, with exports of 7TWh last year helping its Balkan neighbours to cope with a power shortage. This accounted for 50% of the deficit in the region. He also pointed out that the country bowed to EU pressure in agreeing to shut down units 1 and 2 before 2003.
Kozloduy accounted for 44.6% of the country's electricity last year, producing a record 19.6TWh. Its previous record of 18.2TWh was set in 2000. Its average load factor was 83.7%. During a recent cold spell it produced 60% of the nation's power consumption.
Boris Kalchev of the Bulgarian nuclear association has warned that Bulgarian electricity prices would increase at least twofold if units 1 and 2 are shut down by the end of this year.