The final results of a referendum in Bulgaria mean the issue of new nuclear build will now be debated in the country’s parliament.
Bulgaria’s Central Electoral Commission (CEC) yesterday confirmed the results of the nationwide referendum on Sunday on the development of nuclear energy through the construction of a new nuclear power plant.
According to the CEC, 60.6 percent voted in favour of new nuclear and 37.96 percent against. The CEC said 1,405,463 voters took part in the referendum out of 6,950,900 entitled to vote, or 20.22 percent.
According to Bulgarian law, if the turnout at a national referendum is more than 20 percent, and more than half of the votes are positive, the question is tabled for debate in parliament. The turnout needs to be at least 60 percent for the result to be binding and for no debate to be required.
Under Bulgarian law, parliament will have to vote on the proposal within the next three months. However, the ruling centre-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) party has a working majority in parliament and remains against new nuclear plants.
The GERB said it is “considering the next steps” and believes the future of the proposed Belene nuclear project will probably not be decided until after parliamentary elections this summer.
There is no specific text in law that indicates what should happen following a national referendum. Existing provisions are based on civil petitions and say the authorities “must consider the proposals” and within three months. . . declare its decision and implementation measures on their websites, in a national newspaper and public service broadcasting”.
Neither is there any legal requirement for members of parliament to decide either in favour of or against the decision of the referendum.
According to some interpretations of the law, parliament could now make a decision including “measures and recommendations” arising from the results of the referendum. Each member of parliament is entitled to submit their own proposal for a possible parliamentary decision.
Theoretically, parliament could simply decide to ask the government to re- examine the costs of any new nuclear project.
The referendum was called by the Bulgarian Socialist Party in an effort to force the GERB to review its decision not to build two 1,000-megawatt VVER units at the existing Belene nuclear site.
Bulgaria is considering two options for the future of nuclear. In April 2012, the country’s Cabinet decided to construct a seventh nuclear reactor unit at the Kozloduy nuclear site.
That decision came after the Cabinet decided on 28 March 2012 to abandon the project for two new units at Belene, saying it would be more realistic to add a reactor at Kozloduy where two VVER-1000s are operating and four VVER-440s are being decommissioned.