The Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) said it has submitted to parliament 773,447 signatures of citizens demanding that a national referendum be held on the construction of a second nuclear power plant in the country.
"The number of signatures collected makes it mandatory for a referendum to be called," BSP said in a statement published on its website on Friday, quoting its leader Sergei Stanishev.
Parliament is expected to discuss the issue in the beginning of its autumn session. According to BSP, a referendum should be scheduled for early next year.
If a referendum is held, it would be considered valid only if the number of voters is at least equal to the people participating in the last national elections. A question put forth at a referendum needs to be backed by more than half of the voters in order to be implemented.
The Belene project, launched in the late 1980s, had been frozen for nearly two decades before Bulgaria hired Russia's Atomstroyexport in 2008 to build the 2,000 megawatt (MW) power plant. However, little progress was made since due to pricing disagreements between Bulgaria and Russia. At the end of May, the government halted the construction of the second nuclear power plant in the country, choosing instead to add a new 1,000 MW reactor to its existing nuclear power station in Kozloduy. The decision met with strong opposition on the part of the BSP.