The collapse of the Soviet Union nearly 20 years ago obviously put a lot of spies and spooks out of work. With the Cold War at an end, the various superpowers and their allies no longer needed armies of secret agents to gather intelligence and spread disinformation.
So where did all those ex-James Bonds go? How did they adapt to civilian life and use their skills of espionage and propaganda? If you look at what’s going on in countries like Bulgaria right now, you’d be forgiven for thinking they’d all joined the nuclear industry.
The misinformation being spread about how fantastic the Belene nuclear reactor in northern Bulgaria is going to be is worthy of the finest Cold War spy thrillers. ‘The Balkan region suffers from systematic shortage of nuclear energy,’ says the Bulgarian prime minister. ‘Without development of nuclear power, it is impossible to halt adverse climate change,’ he goes on. Nuclear power is more financially viable than oil, he says. ‘The project enjoys the full support of the European Union,’ he claims. Energy Minister Dimitrov claims Belene will have a zero risk of failure. ‘I am proud of Bulgarian power engineers, who are capable of developing such a complicated design,’ boasts Prime Minister Stanishev.
And it’s all wrong, wrong, wrong. Misinformation, disinformation, and propaganda.
The Balkans does not suffer from systematic shortage of nuclear energy. It suffers from a systemic shortage of an energy policy that includes energy efficiency and investment in renewable energy sources.
Nuclear energy is not the way to halt adverse climate change – quite the opposite. Investment of billions in nuclear means less money put into the real solutions to climate change: energy efficiency and renewables.
The Bulgarian government claims nuclear is more financially viable than oil saying that it has spent 70 million leva on nuclear fuel and more than three billion leva on oil products. This ignores the fact that nuclear cannot replace oil in powering transport and the full cost of the Belene reactor is likely to be in the region of seven billion euros.
The European Union does not support nuclear power and has not supported Belene specifically. Because the Bulgarian government has blocked publication of the ‘Opinion of the European Commission under the Euratom Treaty’, we have no idea what the EU thinks of the construction at Belene.
How can Energy Minister Dimitrov claim Belene will have a zero risk of failure? Is he clairvoyant like Jukka Laaksonen, head of Finnish nuclear safety authority, STUK, who said of the construction of Finland’s Olkiluoto 3 nuclear reactor: ‘I have no doubts about the acceptability of the final product’?
The claim that Belene’s ‘complicated design’ came from ‘Bulgarian power engineers’ is also bogus. The reactor is of Russian design. The construction will not mean a job bonanza for Bulgarian workers either. A lack of sufficiently skilled Bulgarian engineers means the government is having to recruit hundreds of Russian, Chinese and Vietnamese workers.
Back during the Cold War, the CIA and KGB would produce bogus inventories of exaggerated troop and armament numbers along with fake blueprints for non-existent super weapons and spacecraft. The hope was that enemy agents would discover them and thus fool the other side into thinking their opponents were more competent and powerful than they actually were. Sharp-eyed counter-intelligence was needed to spot these deceptions.