Lithuania and Slovakia have joined the list of countries being considered for accession to the European Union following commitments by both countries to close Soviet-designed nuclear power stations. But the EU is demanding that Bulgaria sets a deadline for the closure of the four older units at the Kozloduy plant before it can join talks.

The new terms were spelled out by Commission President Romano Prodi on 13 October when he presented reports on 13 countries hoping to join the EU.

“In the interests of nuclear safety, negotiations with Bulgaria should not begin until the Bulgarian authorities have set an acceptable closure date for the four unsafe units at their Kozloduy power station,” he said.

According to Bulgarian press reports, the EU has agreed to help finance the closure and the Bulgarian government is working on a plan bringing forward the closure dates to a time that satisfies the EU. Kozloduy, which has four 440 MWe VVER units and two 1000 MWe units, provides almost half Bulgaria’s electricity. It is the four old version (V-230) 440 MWe units which the EU wants closed.

“Bulgaria will sort out with the European Commission the requirements for closure of some of the generating units of Kozloduy in a way which by no means will impede the start of accession negotiations in 2000,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Konstantin Dimitrov, reacting to Prodi’s statement.

• The Slovak government recently said it is working on a plan to close the two older units at Bohunice by 2008, the deadline set by the EU. Initially Slovakia had wanted to continue to operate the plants until 2012, but the EU indicated this was not acceptable.

“The future of nuclear energy in Europe will depend on national politics and its acceptance by the public. It will be up to each member state to decide to continue with the nuclear option,” said the new EU Commissioner for Energy, Loyola de Palacio. “If the decision is to keep using it, higher safety standards must be in place. New regulations on the protection of public health must be rigorously respected.”