China signs Candu deals with Romania and Argentina

25 July 2014

Two Chinese nuclear utilities have signed agreements that would see them cooperate in the construction and financing of new Candu units at Romania's Cernavoda plant and at Argentina's Atucha plant.

China Nuclear Power Engineering Co (CNPEC) has signed a "binding and exclusive" cooperation agreement with Candu Energy Inc for the construction of two more reactors at the Cernavoda nuclear power plant in Romania.

The agreement, signed in Vancouver yesterday, follows a letter of intent signed by CNPEC's parent company China General Nuclear (CGN) and Romanian national nuclear company Nuclearelectrica last November for investment in and development of Cernavoda units 3 and 4.

Cernavoda is home to two operating Candu 6 pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs) supplied by Candu Energy's predecessor, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL), and built by a Canadian-Italian consortium of AECL and Ansaldo. Unit 1 started up in 1996, but work was suspended on a further four units in 1991. Unit 2 was subsequently completed and has been in operation since 2007. The two reactors currently generated almost 20% of Romania's electricity.

Efforts to resume work on Cernavoda 3 began in 2002, and a new project company, EnergoNuclear, was established in 2009 to oversee the completion of units 3 and 4. Initial partners GDF Suez, CEZ, RWE Power and Iberdrola subsequently withdrew, and the company is currently 84.65% owned by Nuclearelectrica. The Romanian state has since then been looking for new investors in the project to enable Nuclearelectrica to reduce its share.

Argentine agreement

The signing of the Romanian agreement comes days after China and Argentina signed a new high-level agreement towards construction of a third PHWR at the Atucha plant in Argentina.

The accord was signed as part of a meeting last week in Buenos Aires between Chinese president Xi Jinping and Argentine president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. It provides for nuclear utility Nucleoeléctrica Argentina - holder of rights to Candu technology - to be designer, architect-engineer, builder and operator of the new reactor.

Through the agreement, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) would assist by providing goods and services under long-term financing. CNNC operates two Candu 6 units at its Qinshan plant in China's Zhejiang province.

The latest agreement follows the signing of two agreements by Nucleoeléctrica Argentina and CNNC in February covering operations and technology, as well as the use of Chinese goods and services in Argentine exports. Under the first of those agreements, Nucleoeléctrica and CNNC will cooperate on issues related to reactor pressure tubes, including engineering, fabrication, operation and maintenance. It will also cover the manufacture and storage of nuclear fuel, licensing, life extension and technological advances. This agreement is aimed at both operating and future nuclear power plant projects. The second agreement calls for the transfer of Chinese technology to Argentina. Under the accord, Argentina could act as a technology platform, supplying third countries with nuclear technology incorporating Chinese goods and services.

A July 2012 nuclear cooperation accord between Argentina and China involved studies for a fourth nuclear power plant, financed by China, and in transfer of fuel fabrication and other technology.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News