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Bulgarians voted in favour of building a new nuclear power station but the referendum failed to achieve a high enough turnout to make it valid.
The country’s first referendum of the post-communist era is expected to be declared invalid after a mere 21 per cent of eligible voters turned out on Sunday to cast their ballots – far short of the 60 per cent needed to make the decision binding.
Of those who did vote, according to partial official results with 36.2 per cent of the ballots counted, 58.4 per cent said yes to the proposed 2,000-megawatt nuclear plant at Belene on the River Danube.
Support for the plan was higher in villages than in urban areas, said pollster Gallup International.
The issue will now be referred to parliament for debate.
The referendum came after the centre-right government of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov in March 2012 cancelled a project for Russian state company Atomstroyexport, a subsidiary of Rosatom, to build a second nuclear plant in Bulgaria.
The opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party strongly objected and launched a petition which attracted the 500,000 signatures required under the constitution to trigger a referendum.
Bulgaria’s first nuclear plant, at Kozloduy, has been operational since 1974 and is believed to provide inexpensive power supplies and hard currency through exports.
Under pressure from the EU while Bulgaria was getting ready for membership, Sofia agreed to close down four of the plant's six reactors.
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