The week: Going nuclear (again)

The week: Going nuclear (again)

The new Bulgarian mega-dream, eurozone delayed, Nexo comes back with a vengeance

© Nadezhda Chipeva

And so it begins again. We've just finished a 4 decades-long story of trying to build another nuclear plant in Belene, which left us high & dry with 2 Russian reactors to sell, and we're rushing into a new mega-project, like a teenager after a break-up.

This week the new entity in charge of the project for additional reactors in Kozloduy announced an EP+C (engineering, procurement and construction) contract for the whole infrastructure to be built near the existing Nuclear Power Plant. The reactors will be delivered by Westinghouse.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love big projects. I like the way they inspire and revitalize entire regions. Some things are achievable only with state support and with mobilization of resources which is unlikely otherwise.

Also, the need is obviously there. Currently, nuclear power produces 40% of our energy mix and coal - 37%. The latter will be out of business by the end of this decade, and the lifespan of the former is until 2050. The energy consumption of Bulgarian households has risen 50% in the past 20 years, as reported recently by Eurostat.

Even with the recent uptick in solar and wind, it's not a good plan to rush into the future without any precautionary measures. And a country that luckily has expertise in operating an NPP, has an advantage in this game. Yet Bulgaria has a history of failing in big projects (NPP Belene, Hemus highway, speed rail) and this is why we need to be extra careful when it comes to such an endeavor.

The documentation states that the first of the two blocks will begin operations in 2035. The whole project is projected to cost somewhere between 20 and 40 billion levs, or 10 to 20 billion euros. None of those things is likely to be true. There is hardly a NPP construction project that's been on the money, or on time. UK's Hinkley Point is currently running years late and is double the initial price.

So if we're going to pay upwards of 20 billion euro and wait 20 years for something, it better be worth it. I will go ahead and make two bold projections.

First, the level of expertise in big construction companies in Bulgaria will rise, as they are forced to work on schedule with foreign oversight and no space for error (the same, incidentally, is going to happen with the level of corruption).

And second, we're going to have to do a massive rethink of the whole region around Kozloduy. It is going to host up to 5000 workers for the next 15-20 years and then, up to 5000 engineers for the next 50. How do you even attract those people, how do you keep them, what do you do with the infrastructure, the quality of life, and the schools?

It augurs to be a massive game-changer for Northwestern Bulgaria in lots of ways. I, for one, will start thinking about those topics. And you should, too.

If you're going to have an NPP, and you also have a war raging 400 kilometers to your north, you also need someone to watch over it. Bulgaria does a fairly good job of defending its existing one, but in recent years, while waiting for the F-16s, it needs help with Air Policing.

This week the country agreed to allow Turkish jets to carry out missions over Bulgarian skies, according to a draft memorandum of understanding between the two governments.

Expect: cries of lost sovereignty in Parliament, when the vote about this comes up.

Hello, komshu

Bulgaria has similar agreements in place with other neighbors - Romania and Greece. There was already one attempt to strike a deal with Turkey in 2018, but it ended in a scandal.


Our ruling non-coalition gets more interesting by the day. After pushing through the overt political nomination of Desislava Atanasova for a Constitutional judge, and then winning another match in the European Court of Human Rights (see People to watch out for), GERB hasn't moved an inch in the battle for Sofia. The winners of the local elections - the ruling WCC-DB coalition, are still unable to elect a chair for the Municipal Council, a whole 3 months after the vote.

Brutal killing over parental rights: the dark secret of fathers suffering from domestic violence

One story dominated the airwaves and office talk this week: the ferocious strangling of a man by his wife and mother-in-law over a child custody dispute. The case is so utterly unusual and shocking because it involves a seemingly normal middle-class family: a local administrator and an engineer. The mother, a former diplomat to Thailand, was the one who strangled her son-in-law, while he tried to open the car door, held tight by his own wife.

But beneath the media highlights and the shocking headlines, something fundamental lurks.

The mother Gabriela Slavova had a baby from the murdered man, Peyo Peev, but separated from him immediately after she gave birth six years ago, not allowing him to regularly see his child. Then she bore a second child from another man, Veliko Minkov, only to repeat the process, leaving him a few months before the delivery.

Minkov, however, refused to give up on his child and insisted on his name appearing on its birth certificate. This made Slavova pressure Peev into getting married, promising him to see his own child more often, as according to Bulgarian law, if a couple is married, it is the name of the husband that automatically appears on the birth certificate.

Peev, however, agreed to help Minkov appear on his child's birth certificate, which likely prompted the woman and her mother to commit this abomination.

Not alone

The case struck a note because I have been recently informed by one of my regular readers about a hidden tragedy - more and more Bulgarian fathers are finding themselves in a fight for custody over their children, and many of them suffer psychological abuse from their former partners over this.

2. Economy:

Free the land

A decision by the EU court opens up the agricultural land-market for EU citizens. Bulgaria has applied restrictions to the acquisition of land by EU nationals, allowing them to buy only after spending 5 years here. This is illegal, ruled the court.

IT and Energy

Are the sectors with most value added in the economy for 2022. A distant third is grain cultures.


2160 euro
The average investment of 700,000 Bulgarian customers of the Revolut online banking app for 2023. This is more than the average of the entire European Economic Area - 1,827 euros. Revolut customers in Bulgaria who invest via the app have doubled in 2023, indicating they're getting more comfortable with making stock investments. 79.98

bln levs are the household deposits in December, which is an 11% growth year-on-year.

3. Business:

Apps Appolica

Bulgarian app-maker announced the launch of its venture studio, where it will be training startup founders how to create a successful company and taking them through the pre-seed and seed stages, as well as providing financial support. The local startup ecosystem is only just beginning to develop, so a step-by-step accelerator could be crucial to the building of more successful companies, whose founders have ideas but lack the knowhow and experience to manage a whole project by themselves.



Will invest 5 million euro in warehouse automation. The investment will help the growing retail and delivery service manage its inventory.

4. Energy

Parliament approves offshore wind generators investments

With 112 votes in favor, 53 against and three abstentions, MPs from WCC-DB, GERB and MRF adopted at first reading a Law on the energy from renewable sources in the maritime areas on Thursday. It would allow the Minister of Energy to approve 30-year-long concessions for the installment of wind turbines in the Black Sea aquatory.

Fuel companies can once again store deposits outside Bulgaria

MPs also decided on Thursday that companies importing petroleum products will be once again able to store their stocks not only in the interior of the country, but also in warehouses abroad. The ban on storage abroad was introduced in October 2023, but according to importers - Delyan Dobrev (GERB) and Yordan Tsonev (MRF) this makes imports more difficult, reduces competition and makes fuel more expensive.

5. Brussels:

#New bridge: Bulgaria and Romania got 7 million euros from the last tender for military funding within the Connecting Europe Facility. The project will include feasibility studies and designs for building a new rail and road bridge over the Danube River at Giurgiu-Ruse and its access on both sides. The length of the bridge will be 2km, and there will be an access infrastructure of approximately 15 km on the Romanian side and 15 km on the Bulgarian side. However, the funding is only sufficient for the feasibility study; the sources for the construction are still lacking.

#Fighting corruption: This week, the European Commission adopted five initiatives to strengthen the EU's economic security. They include improved screening of foreign investment into the EU; consultation with Member States and stakeholders to identify potential risks stemming from outbound investments in a narrow set of technologies; action for more European coordination in the area of export controls; boosting innovation for technologies with dual-use potential etc.

6. Watch out for:

Person: Diana Kovacheva

The former ombudswoman and GERB's Minister of Justice was elected as the new Bulgarian representative in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). GERB carried out a strong lobbying campaign in her favor in the selection committee, even though she came second in the national nomination committee. Kovacheva will be remembered here as the Minister who oversaw the introduction of the first asset forfeiture legislation and the Specialized Court and Prosecution services - which were terminated a decade later after being used heavily as political tools for the punishment of the disobedient.

Meglena Kuneva

Another fading star of Bulgarian politics, the first EU Commissioner failed to become the Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe, losing to Michael O'Flaherty from Ireland.

Nikola Minchev

The former Speaker of the Parliament will lead the WCC party European Elections list.



Rumors abound that Bulgaria might not fulfill the inflation criteria for eurozone entry until May this year. The expected Convergence report in June will then be unlikely to give a green light for accession. This might mean the country will hope for the next report which can be done in October. Since there is usually a 6-month period between the approval and the entry, mid-2025 seems like the earliest possible date for accession.

And so it begins again. We've just finished a 4 decades-long story of trying to build another nuclear plant in Belene, which left us high & dry with 2 Russian reactors to sell, and we're rushing into a new mega-project, like a teenager after a break-up.

This week the new entity in charge of the project for additional reactors in Kozloduy announced an EP+C (engineering, procurement and construction) contract for the whole infrastructure to be built near the existing Nuclear Power Plant. The reactors will be delivered by Westinghouse.

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