Poll shows strong support for nuclear energy ahead of referendum in Bulgaria

A public opinion poll in Bulgaria, which is scheduled to vote in a referendum in January on nuclear power, showed strong support for continued development of nuclear power, but only a small proportion of respondents said that they considered themselves well-informed on the issue.

The survey, carried out by the National Centre for the Study of Public Opinion among 1000 people in the first week of November, showed 62.5 per cent support for nuclear energy. A previous survey by the same pollster in April found only 57 per cent in favour of building the Belene nuclear power plant.

The referendum on January 27, however, will not explicitly concern Belene, a controversial and costly project that has split opinion in the country for years. Instead, voters will be asked to answer a more general question: “Should Bulgaria develop nuclear energy through the construction of a new nuclear power plant?”

Belene, for which Russia’s Atomstroyexport was contracted to build two 1000MW reactors, was abandoned by the current Cabinet in March, when a report by consultants HSBC put the full cost of financing and construction at more than 10 billion euro.

Reacting to the Government’s decision, the opposition socialists – the party was the majority partner in the previous government that signed the deal for Belene – gathered more than 500 000 signatures required to call a referendum. It was to be specifically on the Belene project, but was thwarted by ruling party GERB in Parliament, which must by law approve the plebiscite but can change the phrasing of the question, as happened in this case.

Only seven per cent of the respondents said that they considered themselves as well informed on nuclear energy and actively sought information and news on nuclear issues. About 38 per cent said that they were averagely informed and 36 per cent said that they were poorly informed. The remaining 19 per cent said that they had no knowledge of nuclear energy issues.

On November 21, the Cabinet designated Finance Minister Simeon Dyankov as the minister in charge of preparing for Bulgaria’s first post-communist plebiscite. The referendum, Dyankov said earlier, is expected to cost 30 million leva, the funds being allocated in next year’s Budget.

(Illustration: Billy Alexander/sxc.hu)



The Sofia Globe staff

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