Three separate studies conclude that the Kozloduy 3 and 4 VVER 440s have met virtually all the safety requirements for their age class and are basically different from the first generation VVER-440 model 230. However, the findings are unlikely to have much effect on European Commission (EC) demands - which are based more on political than engineering arguments - to close the units in 2006.
One of the studies, carried out by a joint Bulgarian-Russian team, concluded that Kozloduy 3 and 4 can be requalified as a new model of VVER, closer to the second generation model 213.
Another study, by Vienna-based consultancy Enconet, compared Kozloduy 3 and 4 with current safety requirements and practice in western countries, as well as Russia and Bulgaria. The safety status of the units was assessed by Framatome ANP, following the modernisation programme that has been carried out since 1997.
The findings of the third study by IAEA experts were announced last month. The review team concluded that Kozloduy 3 and 4 had addressed all safety issues the IAEA had identified in a 1991 review, and would soon have resolved all of them. In the wake of the 1991 IAEA review, the international community began providing funds for the safety improvements. In 1997, Kozloduy management undertook a large scale upgrade programme at units 3 and 4, which was completed during 2002.
Kozloduy management told the IAEA team that the total investment in safety improvements between 1991 and 2006 would exceed r700 million.
Meglena Kuneva, Bulgaria's chief negotiator for European Union (EU) accession, admitted that the IAEA conclusions "didn't change anything" in the country's talks with the EU. She pointed out that the IAEA assessment did not cover "design safety", a main concern of the EC.