Romania's Popescu outlines fresh nuclear cooperation

27 October 2022

Minister of Energy Virgil Popescu says Canada and the USA are both offering to help with the financing of the construction of Cernavoda 3 and 4 and said the US firms Fluor Corporation and Sargent & Lundy, Canada's SNC Lavalin and France's Framatome had agreed to "explore opportunities for cooperation in the civil nuclear field" with Nuclearelectrica.

The IAEA ministerial conference is taking place in the USA (Image: Virgil Popescu/Twitter)

Popescu said the "very important announcement for the development of the civil nuclear programme in our country" was unveiled alongside US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and Jonathan Wilkinson, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, at the International Atomic Energy Agency International Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Power in the 21st Century. 

Writing on Facebook, Popescu said the four companies would "bring unrivalled expertise in delivering world-class nuclear power safely and securely" and would cover both "traditional" and advanced nuclear reactors.

He added that "through these partnerships we will also achieve our decarbonisation targets and, at the same time, strengthen energy independence and security” and “demonstrate that we do not allow energy to be used as a political weapon".

A separate meeting, with US Assistant Secretary for Energy David Turk, had discussed the status of projects covered by the two countries’ cooperation agreement, said Popescu, including small modular reactors (SMRs). He added: "The American official conveyed that the Department of Energy is analysing the possibility of involvement in the financing of the construction of reactors 3 and 4 at Cernavoda, in addition to the financial support we will have from Exim Bank."

Popescu also said he had discussed joint projects with Canada’s Wilkinson, who had told him Romania had "support and funding from the Canadian government for the retrofitting of reactor 1 and the construction of reactors 3 and 4". He added that they had also "discussed the special importance we must give to the training of a new generation of specialists in the development of the nuclear field".

Romania's nuclear strategy

The partnership between the USA and Romania on SMRs began in March 2019 with a Memorandum of Understanding between Nuclearelectrica and NuScale to study potential developments. This was followed in 2020 by an intergovernmental agreement between Romania and the USA and an expression of interest from the US Exim Bank to provide support of up to USD7 billion.

Nuclearelectrica plans to operate Cernavoda 1 until the end of 2026 and then undertake the refurbishment from 2027 to 2029. Once it is approved for restart by safety regulators, unit 1 should then operate until around 2060. The project therefore represents a major plank in Romania's policy to reach net-zero in terms of carbon dioxide emissions from 2050. The total cost of the refurbishment is estimated at EUR1.85 billion (USD1.85 billion).

Cernavoda 2 will also be a candidate for refurbishment, but it is nine years younger than unit 1 and would be due for this in 2037.

In parallel to refurbishments, Nuclearelectrica wants to complete and bring into service two more half-built Canadian Candu units at Cernavoda, units 3 and 4. The first contracted work for this, with Candu Energy as well as Sargeant & Lundy, began in November last year. Unit 3 could be in operation by 2031.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News