Novi Han referendum rejects nuclear waste depot

Monday, February 18, 2008

Residents of the town of Novi Han, 12km southeast of Sofia, voted in favour of shutting down the nuclear waste facility near the town, in a referendum on February 18 2008.

The turnout for the referendum was 66.2 per cent, passing the 51 per cent threshold for it to be considered valid, with 99 per cent of the 1221 town's residents who went to polling stations voting in favour of shutting down the facility, Focus news agency reported.

Bulgaria's Cabinet recently announced plans to modernise the facility, but locals feared it was only a cover-up for plans to expand the depot.

Novi Han mayor Sashka Nenova said that the municipal council of Elin Pelin had to announce within two weeks the tangible steps that would be taken to close the radioactive waste depot in Novi Han. Nenova added that the municipal councillors supported the town's residents in their initiative to close the depot and it was unlikely that they would ignore the referendum's results under consideration. Novi Han is part of the Elin Pelin municipality.

The town's residents have long campaigned against the radioactive storage, concerned with the impact it might have on their health. The environmental assessment of the facility claimed there was a risk that waste waters from the facility would find their way into the town's water supply pipes.

The locals were also worried about the Government's plans to build a new depot for low and medium radioactivity nuclear waste.

“We are aware that problems of national importance cannot be decided at a local level, but we hope that the referendum results would give the Cabinet a clear sign that we will stop accepting more waste,” Nenova said, as quoted by Dnevnik daily.

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