Romania adopts support agreement law for Cernavoda 3 and 4

15 March 2023

Nuclearelectrica has welcomed the adoption of the law approving a support agreement with Romania's government for the proposed units 3 and 4 at the Cernavoda nuclear power plant. The firm said it allows the start of the next phase of the project.

Work on Cernavoda 3 and 4 was halted in 1991 (Image: Nuclearelectrica)

Cosmin Ghita, Nuclearelectrica CEO, said the project would not be able to go ahead "without the involvement of the state and authorities in nuclear energy projects ... today’s vote is a concrete signal for the continuation of this strategic project for Romania, by which we will add another 10 TWh of CO2-free energy to the national energy system after 2031".

He said Nuclearelectrica was looking to combine investment in the new units with refurbishment of unit 1 and development of small modular reactors, saying "efficient, safe and clean nuclear energy will make Romania an example at regional and global level, through various support partnerships associated with major investment projects".

The commitments given by the law include the government taking "the necessary steps to finance the construction of the two reactors, including but not limited to the granting of state guarantees to the project's financiers". It will also be responsible for the implementation of the "Contracts for Difference" support mechanism.

Nuclearelectrica said that the adoption of the law means Phase II of the project can now get under way - which includes steps relating to updating the project budget, structuring financing and getting European Commission approval as well as Nuclear Safety Authorisation for the construction phase and taking the final investment decision to move to Phase III, the construction phase.

The second phase of the project is scheduled to take up to 30 months, with construction estimated to take up to 78 months. Unit 3 is scheduled to start commercial operation in 2030 and Unit 4 the following year.

Nuclearelectrica said the intention of the company and the Romanian state "is to carry out this project in a Euro-Atlantic consortium on the basis of the agreement between the Government of Romania and the Government of the United States of America on cooperation in relation to nuclear energy projects at Cernavoda and in the civil nuclear energy sector in Romania".

It adds that at COP 27, "the US Exim Bank announced the issuance of two letters of interest for the financing of technical services provided by the US in connection with the Cernavoda units 3 and 4 project" - "Exim may consider funding up to USD50 million from the US export contract for pre-project technical services" in Phase II and in Phase III "may consider funding up to USD3 billion from US export contract for engineering and project management services for the contract to complete" the two units.

The energy ministry estimates that 19,000 jobs in the industry will be created, with each unit saving 5 million tonnes of CO2 each year.

Cernavoda is the only nuclear power plant in Romania and consists of two 650 MWe pressurised heavy-water reactors. Unit 1 went into commercial operation in 1996 and unit 2 in 2007. Operator Nuclearelectrica plans to extend the operating life of unit 1 to 60 years. Most of the work on units 3 and 4 - like units 1 and 2, CANDU-6 reactors - was done in the 1980s prior to the fall of the government of Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989.

In October, Romania said Canada and the USA were both offering to help with the financing of the construction of Cernavoda 3 and 4, which has an estimated cost of EUR7 billion (USD7.4 billion). Romania also has plans for small modular reactors (SMRs), with a Memorandum of Understanding signed between Nuclearelectrica, US firm NuScale and E-INFRA relating to the proposed site at DoiceČ™ti, the location selected for the country's first SMR.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News