Contract for Cernavoda tritium removal facility

27 June 2023

Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) has signed a contract worth KRW260 billion (USD200 million) to construct a tritium removal facility at Romania's Cernavoda nuclear power plant site. The facility will use technology developed by Romania.

The EPC signing ceremony (Image: KHNP)

The engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract was signed by Hwang Joo-ho, CEO of KHNP, and Cosmin Ghiță, general manager of Romanian nuclear power plant operator Societatea Nationala Nuclearelectrica in Seoul on 27 June.

As Candu pressurised heavy water reactors age, tritium - an isotope of hydrogen - accumulates in its moderator and heat transport systems. Increased levels of tritium can significantly contribute to personnel dose rates and emissions levels in the environment. Tritium removal technology is designed to capture and process tritium so that it can be properly stored and recycled, thereby reducing environmental impact, personnel exposure levels and enhancing workplace safety.

The Cernavoda tritium removal facility - the world's third and first in Europe - will use technology developed by the Romanian National Research and Development Institute for Cryogenic and Isotopic Technologies (ICSI), a scientific research and technological development unit under the coordination of the Ministry of Research, Innovation and Digitalisation.

The tritium removal facility will include several high-technology areas: liquid phase isotopic separation, cryogenic distillation and high-vacuum operation.

The tritium extracted will be stored in secure and safe specialised containers ready for future use.

The facility, Nuclearelectrica said, will "give Romania the opportunity to become a European hub for tritium production and export – the fuel candidate of future clean fusion reactors. Also, Romania has the opportunity to develop its suppliers' chain and become a centre for development and export of the Romanian tritium removal technology and know-how, using localised factories and workforce".

KHNP was selected as the EPC contractor following a public procurement procedure. The project completion duration is estimated to be 50 months.

"We are happy to implement a Romanian innovative technology, based on years of research and development, a true statement of Romania's leadership in nuclear industry," Ghiță said. "KHNP, a leading expert in the field is the right partner to support us in delivering a safe and reliable project.

"The tritium removal facility represents Nuclearelectrica's constant commitment to safe operation and protection of the environment and population. Our purpose, through our investment projects, technological advancement and international cooperation, is to provide Romania a leading role in the nuclear industry and support its energy security. I am fully appreciative of ICSI, my team at Nuclearelectrica and our partners for their efforts and shared vision for a sustainable future for the next generation."

Cernavoda is the only nuclear power plant in Romania and consists of two 650 MWe Candu-6 reactors. Unit 1 went into commercial operation in 1996 and unit 2 in 2007. Nuclearelectrica plans to extend the operating life of unit 1 to 60 years.

Tritium removal facilities are already in operation at Ontario Power Generation's Darlington plant and KHNP's Wolsong plant, both home to Candu reactors.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News