Belene nuclear saga: further chapters

Bulgarian Belene petition

Signing up to Belene NPP on Victory Day 2012

There are two noteworthy developments in the never-ending drama (comedy, farce, tragedy, thriller?) surrounding the saga that is Belene.

First, it’s been disclosed – in parliament – that a US consortium of investors is interested in developing Belene. No one, not even the PM and Cabinet, seems to know anything about this group; and the local press is awash with negative comments about the few disclosed players (Bulgarian and international) and their reputations. (You’ll have to look elsewhere for these claims).

However, it seems that the Bulgarian Minister of Economy, Energy and Tourism, Delyan Dobrev, has sent a letter to the US Department of Energy asking for more information about the Global Power Consortium, and about the people behind it.

The citizens speak

More intriguing is the progress of a recent petition initiated by the socialist opposition, back in the summer. The petition was an attempt to provoke a national referendum to gauge popular support for construction of the second nuclear power plant at Belene (the other is at Kozloduy).

The draft* question put forward was: “Should nuclear energy be further developed in Bulgaria through construction of a nuclear power station at Belene?”

The party submitted a claimed total of 773,447 signatures in support of their petition. Under Bulgarian law, any such petition that gathers more than 500,000 valid signatures may trigger a national referendum, with parliament having the right to amend* the question originally asked in the petition.

Today, the Civil Registry office turned over its scrutinised results to parliament. You’d think that the results would be mostly satisfactory. After all, socialist or not, it’s a simple enough question to sign up to, and ensure that your signature and supporting information are correctly presented.

Wrong assumption

Not so! The Minister of Regional Development and Public Works, Lilyana Pavlova, announced the results earlier today. According to the report that cites her:

  • Total signatures: 717,021 (not what was earlier reported)
  • Valid signatures: 543,639
  • Incorrectly dated: 173,382 (I don’t know why this is important)
  • Incorrect data or wrong personal ID: more than 137,000 (you can’t give a correct ID number!)
  • Multiple signatures from same persons: 28,000 (ballot-stuffing?)
  • Under-18: 2,200+ (presumably legally invalid)
  • Not Bulgarian citizens: 1,300

And, best of all:

  • Deceased signatories: almost 3,000. (I know the Belene story has gone on for ages, but that’s “interesting”… )

Presumably, therefore, the petition is successful in that, despite ‘aberrations’, there are 543,000+ valid signatures (75.8% of the declared grand total submitted).

I’m awaiting with interest the next shifts of plot in this protracted international political thriller.

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