“Existential danger”: Romania switches from China to US for help in building reactors

Romania and the US signed a draft deal on Friday, 9 October that would see the latter help the eastern European country build two new civil nuclear reactors.

It follows Romania’s decision to terminate an agreement with China General Nuclear (CGN) earlier this year to build reactors 3 and 4 at the Cernavoda Nuclear Power Plant on the Danube River.

The US used Friday’s deal to allege that China posed a threat to Romania, with US ambassador to that country, Adrian Zuckerman, tweeting: "#Romania no longer has to fear existential danger since it terminated its agreement with #China General Nuclear to rebuild #Cernavoda."

US energy secretary Dan Brouillette and his Romanian counterpart, energy minister Virgil Popescu, signed the draft agreement in Washington, DC.

The two governments also signed a 10-year "Roadmap for Defense Cooperation".

Under the nuclear deal, the US will share technical, regulatory, safety and nuclear security expertise.

Details of potential financing of the reactors were not released, but the Romanian government said the US was interested "to explore financial institutions to support the global funding of the projects".

"Nuclear energy is crucial to ensuring Romania has a reliable, affordable, and emissions-free supply of electricity, and the US nuclear industry looks forward to providing their expertise to advance this important energy source," said Secretary Brouillette. "This agreement between the U.S. and Romania furthers our mutual energy cooperation and will strengthen the energy security of both our nations."

In 2013 Romania and China signed two cooperation agreements that saw CGN take a role in building the new reactors at Cernavoda, with CGN also investing in the project.

Talks advanced slowly. In May 2019, Romania’s state nuclear company Nuclearelectrica signed a preliminary investors’ agreement with CGN to build two 700 MWe Candu 6 pressurised heavy water reactors at Cernavoda.

Then Romania changed course at the start of this year as the Trump administration intensified its criticisms of China and launched an international diplomatic offensive against technology giant Huawei.

In May, the Romanian government instructed Nuclearelectrica to end talks with CGN.

Image: Romanian energy minister Virgil Popescu, left, shaking on the 9 October agreement in Washington, DC, with Kimberly A. Reed, president and chairman of the US Export-Import Bank (Nuclearelectrica)

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