Nuclear Power in Romania
(Updated July 2016)
- Romania has two nuclear reactors generating almost 20 percent of its electricity.
- Romania's first commercial nuclear power reactor began operating in 1996. Its second started up in May 2007.
- China General Nuclear Power (CGN) has agreed to complete two more units.
- Romanian government support for nuclear energy is strong.
Electricity consumption in Romania has been steady over the last decade. In 2013, 59 TWh gross was produced, with net exports of 2.1 TWh. Nuclear energy now provides almost 20% of the electricity at very low cost, only hydro (one-third of supply) is cheaper. In 2013, 17 TWh of electricity came from brown coal, 9 TWh from gas, 15 TWh from hydro and 11.6 TWh from nuclear.
The question of a national energy security strategy has been unresolved for some years.
Nuclear industry development
In the late 1970s a five-unit nuclear power plant was planned at Cernavoda, on the Danube River. After considering carefully both Russian VVER-440 and Canadian CANDU technology it was decided to adopt the latter. Cernavoda was based on technology transfer from Canada (AECL), Italy and the USA, with Candu-6 heavy-water reactors.
Construction of the first unit started in 1980, and of units 2-5 in 1982. In 1991 work on the latter four was suspended in order to focus on unit 1, responsibility for which was handed to an AECL-Ansaldo (Canadian-Italian) consortium. Unit 1 was connected to the grid in mid 1996 and entered commercial operation in December 1996.
The state nuclear power corporation Societatea Nationala Nuclearelectrica (SNN), established in 1998, operates Cernavoda. Its capacity factor has averaged over 86% so far and operating and maintenance costs are USD 1.25 cents/kWh. The unit also provides district heating to Cernavoda township, and 176 TJ was supplied in 2006.
Operating Romanian power reactors
In 2000 the government decided that completion of Cernavoda 2 was a high priority and supplied some €60 million towards it. It was seen as the least-cost means of providing extra generating capacity for the country. Further finance was raised in 2002-03, with a €382.5 million package announced by the government, including €218 million from Canada. In 2004 an €223.5 million Euratom loan was approved by the European Commission for completion of unit 2, including upgrades.
The 700 MWe (gross) unit has been built by an AECL-Ansaldo-SNN management team, and entered commercial operation in October 2007. Total cost of the project was €777 million. It started up in May 2007 and was grid connected early in August.
In September 2013 the government sold a 10% share of SNN for $85 million in an IPO, in line with commitments to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the EU. It also sold 1% to investment fund Fondul Proprietatea.
Completing Cernavoda 3&4
In 2002 efforts got under way to resume work on Cernavoda unit 3, and SNN commissioned a feasibility study from Ansaldo, AECL and KHNP (S.Korea) in 2003. In August 2004 the government advertised for companies interested in completing Cernavoda unit 3 – a 700 MWe Candu 6 unit – through a public-private partnership arrangement. This proved impractical, and a feasibility study in March 2006 analysed further options for both units 3&4, including that of SNN completing unit 3 itself.
However, it was decided to proceed with creating a project joint venture with SNN to complete both 720 MWe units in a €2.5 billion project and then operate them. This would be an independent power producer, with SNN providing operation and maintenance. Twelve potential investors were selected from 15 initial bidders, and in November 2007 binding offers from six companies were accepted: ArcelorMittal (steel maker) of Romania, CEZ of the Czech Republic, Electrabel of Belgium, Enel of Italy, Iberdrola of Spain and RWE Power of Germany. The seven parties including SNN would spread the risk and ease the challenge of project financing.*
In November 2008 an investment agreement setting up a new project company, EnergoNuclear SA, was signed between SNN, with 51% of the project, and Enel, CEZ, GDF Suez, RWE Power (each 9.15%), Iberdrola (6.2%) and ArcelorMittal Galati (6.2%). In September 2010 CEZ announced its intention to sell its share, which it did to SNN by January 2011. Then in January 2011 GdF Suez, RWE and Iberdrola together gave notice of withdrawing from the project for commercial reasons. This left Nuclearlectrica (SNN) with an 84.65% share in the project. Enel holds 9.15% and ArcelorMittal Galati 6.2%. In December 2013 these last two companies pulled out also.
In 2011 three engineering contractors said they would bid for the engineering work on the two units. One is Bechtel, another is a consortium of Canada's SNC Lavalin, Ansaldo Nucleare of Italy and Romanian power engineering company Elcomex IEA, and the third an AtomTechnoProm consortium of four Russian companies. All three were involved in building Cernavoda 1&2. Finalising a contractor is expected by mid-2012.
EnergoNuclear was formally established in April 2009, and embarked upon an 18 month pre-project phase. Construction cost was expected to be about €4 billion. Overall debt/equity ratio was earlier proposed to be 70/30. However, by September is was evident that SNN could not raise its share of the funds, and would contribute only 20 to 25%, mostly in kind – heavy water and fuel. The other participants would increase their shares accordingly, perhaps to those agreed in March 2008. The first unit is still expected on line in 2016, the second in 2017.
In February 2010 Energonuclear signed an agreement with AECL to assess the viability of the project and define what was required to complete and commission units 3 & 4. In December 2010 the European Commission approved the project. In August 2011 SNN said that China Nuclear Power Engineering Co. (CNPEC, a subsidiary of CGN) was interested in investing in the two new Cernavoda units, and later a South Korean consortium also expressed interest. Bids were open until mid November 2011 to partner with SNN, Enel and ArcelorMittal in Energonuclear, with the new investor taking about 45% of the project. Apparently no bids were received.
In October 2012 the government asked the four major utilities – GdF Suez, Iberdrola, RWE and CEZ – which had withdrawn from EnergoNuclear SA to reconsider involvement in the Cernavoda 3&4 project.
Then China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) expressed interest in investing in the project, providing non-nuclear equipment. In November 2013 two nuclear cooperation agreements were signed by Nuclearlectrica (SNN) with CGN, one a letter of intent relating to construction of units 3&4. In May 2014 a further agreement with CGN was signed, and in mid-2014 the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China agreed to finance the €6.5 billion project, with CNPEC building the two reactors. CGN would hold a major share in the project, with Nuclearlectrica (SNN) a minor shareholder holding 49% in a new joint venture to replace or reconstitute EnergoNuclear SA, in which SNN now holds 84.65%.
In July 2014 CGN subsidiary China Nuclear Power Engineering Co (CNPEC) signed a "binding and exclusive" cooperation agreement with Candu Energy Inc for the construction of two more reactors at Cernavoda. The agreement complements the November 2013 letter of intent signed by CNPEC's parent company China General Nuclear (CGN) and Nuclearelectrica for investment in and development of Cernavoda 3&4. CGN itself has no experience of CANDU technology.
Then in September 2014 CGN submitted its offer to build the two units, and was accepted as a Qualified Investor. In October SNN designated CGN as the "selected investor" for the project and the two companies signed a letter of intent to proceed. In November 2015 the two companies signed a further agreement for the development, construction, operation and decommissioning of Cernavoda 3&4. The project joint venture will be at least 51% CGN. SNN and CGN said the €7.2 billion/$7.7 billion agreement also moves the project closer to the organisation of project financing and selection of investors. In January 2016 the government wrote to CGN outlining major areas of support and commitment associated with the project, including electricity market reform, tariff mechanisms, electricity sales, state guarantees, financial incentive policies, and continuity of those policies. Negotiations continue for forming a joint venture company with SNN.
The largely-new reactors will be updated versions of the Candu 6, but not the full EC6 version, since the concrete structures are already built. Unit 3 is reported to be 53% complete and unit 4 is 30%. They will have an operating life of 30 years with the possibility of 25-year extension.
Romanian power reactors planned
||1440 MWe (gross)
Further nuclear power capacity
SNN was planning to complete Cernavoda unit 5 by 2020, but since this was significantly less progressed than the others, government thinking is to build further nuclear capacity at other sites. The shell of unit 5 is now being used for other purposes. Early plans foresaw ten Candu and three VVER-1000 units for Romania, at several sites.
A March 2008 statement by the head of SNN said that up to four more units by 2020 at a new site were proposed, and early in 2009 site selection was still under way. In May it was announced that Tirnaveni municipality in Tirgu Mures district of Transylvania, and on the Muresul River in central Romania was favoured, with a site in the nearby Sibiu district on the Olt River as second choice. Three sites on the Somes River in Transylvania have also been mentioned, for 2400 MWe of capacity to be built after 2020. Areva has been approached to contribute to planning, with a view to a second plant being commissioned by 2030
Up to 1963 some 20,000 tonnes of uranium was supplied to the Soviet Union from mines at Baita (Bihor area in northwest) and at Banat in the southwest. The Baita mine produced very small output through to 2008 from decommissioning. Considerable rehabilitation of early mine sites has been undertaken by CNCAN.
The state-owned Compania Nationala a Uraniului (CNU) has been producing about 50 tU per year from 3100 tU known resources at Crucea-Botusana in the north, with government subsidy. These mines were commissioned in 1983 and 1985 but are now almost depleted. Production in 2015 was 77 tU. Ore treatment is 350 km away in the Uzina mill at Feldioara in the centre of the country, using pressure alkaline leaching. This plant was commissioned in 1978. CNU is planning to develop the small Tulghes-Grinties deposit (discovered in 1960s) in the East Carpathian mountains about 100 km south of Crucea-Botusana at a cost of EUR 91 million. Another deposit is in the Highis-Drocea Mountains in the west.
In 2014 it was announced that CNU would merge with SNN.
Cernavoda 1 has been using 105 tonnes of natural uranium oxide fuel per year, which is fabricated by the SNN subsidiary Fabrica de Combustibil Nuclear (FCN) Pitesti fuel plant in he south of the country. This was qualified by AECL in 1994 and remains the only such plant producing Candu fuel outside Canada.
Prior to 1990 some 31,000 fuel bundles were made, but these were assessed as unusable so were dismantled and refabricated. This material comprised half of the fuel used to early 2007.
At the end of 2003 it started making slightly heavier fuel bundles, and in preparation for unit 2 commissioning, its capacity was doubled to 46 fuel bundles per day.
Heavy water is produced by the Romanian Nuclear Activities Authority (RAAN) in the southwest of the country, near Drobeta-Turnu Severin.
Radioactive waste management
Used fuel is stored at the reactors for six to ten years. It is then transferred to a dry storage facility (DICA) at Cernavoda based on the Macstor system designed by AECL, where it will remain for about 50 years as the responsibility of Nuclearelectrica. The first module was commissioned in 2003.
At Saligny near Cernavoda, a low- and intermediate-level waste repository (DFDSMA) for material from operation and decommissioning of Cernavoda is under construction by the Nuclear and Radioactive Waste Agency (ANDR), which is responsible for final disposal. This will be a surface repository consisting of concrete cells, with containers containing cement-conditioned waste, covered by a concrete cap and finally by a multilayer impervious cover. SNN applied for a licence in 1998, and in 2008 a partial site licence was issued by CNCAN. The repository is expected to cost €40 million for the first of eight stages. It will be funded from the €2/MWh fee paid by Nuclearelectrica, which is also for reactor decommissioning.
Preliminary investigations have been under way since 1992 regarding a deep geological repository, and six geological formations are considered potential, particularly the green schists of Central Dobrogea which are being assessed by NAGRA from Switzerland for ANDR.
The national repository for industrial low-level radioactive waste (DNDR) has operated since 1985 at Baita Bihor in two galleries of the former Baita uranium mine. Its capacity is 21,000 standard 220-litre drums.
Under Romanian law, waste rock and mine tailings are considered radioactive wastes.
Research & development
A 14 MWt Triga research reactor is operated by RAAN at Pitesti, and a 2 MW Russian VVR-S unit is being decommissioned at Bucharest-Magurele.
A consortium was set up in December 2013 for the construction of a demonstration lead-cooled fast reactor in Romania. The Advanced Lead Fast Reactor European Demonstrator (ALFRED) is being developed under an EU initiative. A memorandum of cooperation has been signed between Italy's National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and the Environment (ENEA) with Ansaldo Nucleare, and Romania's Nuclear Research Institute (Institutul de Cercetari Nucleare, ICN), to implement construction of ALFRED. The group is to be known as the Fostering Alfred Construction (Falcon) consortium, which will be expanded through the participation of further European organizations. The total cost of the project is put at some €1.0 billion. ALFRED will be built at ICN's facility in Mioveni, near Pitesti in southern Romania. Construction could begin in 2017 and the unit could start operating in 2025. It will supply 120 MWe to the electrical grid.
The reactor is being developed through the European Sustainable Nuclear Industrial Initiative (ESNII), which brings together industry and research partners in the development of Generation IV Fast Neutron Reactor technology, as part of the EU's Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan). ESNII was set up under the umbrella of the Sustainable Nuclear Energy Technology Platform (SNETP), formed in 2007 and bringing together more than 90 stakeholders involved in nuclear fission.
Alfred is seen as a prelude to an industrial demonstration unit of about 600 MWe. The lead-cooled reactor will employ mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel with about 17% plutonium, and will operate at temperatures of around 550°C. It features passive safety systems.
Regulation and safety
The Ministry for Education and Research includes the National Agency for Atomic Energy which has a technical and research role.
SNN comes under the Ministry of Economy and Commerce. The Romanian Nuclear Activities Authority (RAAN) operates the Triga research reactor and undertakes R&D on safety, nuclear fuel, radiation protection, reactor systems, and radioactive waste management. It also operates the heavy water plant.
The National Commission for Nuclear Activities Control (CNCAN) is the regulator which was set up under the Nuclear Act 1996 to ensure safety and to licence nuclear sites and operations including waste storage and disposal. It is also responsible for safeguards and other international liaison, ensuring conformity with IAEA standards, as well as radiation protection.
The Nuclear & Radioactive Waste Agency (ANDR) was established in 2009 by merging two previous entities.
Romania is a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) since 1970 as a non-nuclear weapons state. It is member of the Nuclear Suppliers' Group. The Additional Protocol in relation to its safeguards agreements with the IAEA came into force in 2000.