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Bulgarians will soon vote on the future of nuclear power in the country, after MPs agreed on Wednesday to send the issue to a referendum.
While lawmakers approved the referendum, MPs from the ruling GERB party changed the wording of the question, removing “Belene”- the name of the abandoned nuclear plant that spurred the referendum issue.
Voters will be asked: "Should nuclear energy be developed in Bulgaria through the building of a new nuclear plant?" The ruling party said that a referendum on a specific project would be unconstitutional.
The people's vote is expected to take place in January.
The opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party, BSP, launched the petition for a referendum on the fate of the proposed Belene Nuclear Power Plant after the government abandoned plans to build it in March this year, after failing to find western investors.
The project was first launched in the 1980s, but the construction of Bulgaria's second nuclear power plant at Belene was halted in the early 1990s over lack of money and environmental protests.
In 2008, after selecting the Russian company Atomstroyexport, a subsidiary of Rosatom, to build two 1000-MW reactors at Belene and signing a deal for the construction, former prime minister Sergei Stanishev gave a formal restart to the building of Belene.
Following the decision this year to again abandon the plant, Bulgaria's government is now tangled up in a billion euro dispute with Russia over the termination of the project.
Despite protests from the BSP over the change in wording of the referendum question, a total of 106 lawmakers voted in favor of the amended question, while seven MPs voted against.
BSP and the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms abstained from the vote because of the change in wording.
The Socialists argued that by altering the referendum question, the GERB had disregarded the opinion of over 700,000 people who had signed the petition.
The nuclear crisis in Japan appears to have made some Bulgarians reconsider their views on the country's Belene Nuclear Power Plant project, a recent poll shows.
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