“Strong case” for Bulgaria nuclear aid -EU exec

* EU’s Barroso says Bulgaria has good case for compensation

* Barroso to work with Bulgaria to get other states’ backing

* Bulgarian PM says 300 mln euro expected (Adds Bulgarian PM)

By Pete Harrison

BRUSSELS, June 19 (Reuters) – Bulgaria has a compelling case for receiving more compensation for closing two ageing Soviet-era nuclear reactors in 2006, Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said on Friday.

The fate of the two 440-megawatt reactors, which Bulgaria shut to win EU membership, is a politically sensitive issue in the Balkan country where the Kozloduy nuclear plant, the site of the blocks, is seen as a symbol of national pride.

“Bulgaria has a very strong case and I promised the prime minister I would work with him to try to persuade other member states of the need to find this necessary compensation,” Barroso told reporters.

“I cannot at this moment commit myself to a precise figure,” he added.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev told reporters in Sofia via a video link from Brussels that his European Union newcomer country could get about 300 million euros ($417.6 million).

“According to our expectations the compensations we can receive amount to 300 million euros, which is extremely important in times of (global economic) crisis,” Stanishev said.

The European Union has already promised Bulgaria some 550 million euros in compensation, covering the period until the end of this year. The government has said it wants compensation to continue until 2013.

The Socialist-led government had given up earlier plans to restart the two 440-megawatt nuclear power units after strong signals from Brussels that any such attempt would be blocked.

Opposition parties have called the plan to reopen the reactors a ploy by the Socialists to stir up a nationally sensitive subject and revive support for the party ahead of July 5 parliamentary election.

Opinion polls show some two-thirds of Bulgaria’s 7.6 million population want the government to go for its failure to act against the economic crisis and tame rampant corruption.

More than 75 percent of Bulgarians support the use of nuclear energy. The government has repeatedly argued it is unfair of the EU to rule that the Kozloduy’s shut reactors were dangerous.

In January, parliament gave the cabinet permission to ask Brussels to let Bulgaria restart the units to compensate it for the economic crisis and for losses caused by cuts in gas supplies after the price dispute between Russia and Ukraine.

Kozloduy now has two remaining reactors of 1,000 MW each. (Additional reporting by Anna Mudeva and Tsvetelia Ilieva in Sofia; editing by James Jukwey)

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