Romania ratifies €8bn nuclear power deal with US

Romania’s Senate has ratified an intergovernmental agreement signed last year with the US which aims to expand and modernise the country’s nuclear power industry.

The €8bn deal may lead to the completion of two reactors at Cernavoda, Romania’s only nuclear power plant, and the refurbishment of one of its two existing reactors.

Cosmin Ghita, the chief executive of nuclear operator Nuclearelectrica, commented in a press statement that the ratification of the draft legislation meant that Romania was in a position to achieve its aim of connecting unit 3 to the grid in 2030 and unit 4 in 2031.

He added that the refurbishment of Cernavoda’s Candiru-6 reactor offered the lowest cost way of generating electricity, so "nuclear projects come with a double advantage: competitive costs and zero carbon emissions".

Cernavoda operates two Canadian-designed 650MW pressurised heavy-water reactors. Unit 1 went into commercial operation in 1996 and unit 2 in 2007. Nuclearelectrica is hoping to extend the operating life of unit 1 to 60 years.

Work on the third and fourth reactors, which are also Candiru designs, was begun in the 1980s prior to the fall of the Ceausescu regime in 1989.

In July 2020, Romania launched a tender for a new feasibility study to complete units 3 and 4.

The European Commission approved the plan to enlist US aid in completing work on the two reactors in November, ending long standing plans to enlist Chinese aid in the project (see further reading).

In 2013, Romania and China signed two agreements that assigned China General Nuclear (CGN) a leading role in building and financing the reactors. This was followed by a deal in May 2019 between Romania’s state nuclear company Nuclearelectrica and CGN to build two 700MW reactors.

Romania changed course at the start of 2020 as the Trump administration intensified its criticisms of China.

According to Nuclearelectrica, the projects will contribute to the development of the country’s nuclear industry, and will create up to 9,000 jobs, as well as stimulating "research, innovation and development in the nuclear industry".

The draft law will now go to President Klaus Iohannis for approval.

  • Edited 1 December 2021 to change dollar figure to euros.

Image: Romanian energy minister Virgil Popescu, left, shaking hands in Washington, DC, with Kimberly Reed, president of the US Export-Import Bank (Nuclearelectrica)

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