U.S. replaces China on Romania’s Cernavoda project

October 12, 2020, 3:00PMNuclear News



U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette and Romania’s Minister of Economy, Energy, and Business Development Virgil Popescu initialed a draft intergovernmental agreement on October 9 to cooperate on the construction of two additional reactors at the Cernavoda nuclear power plant, as well as the refurbishment of Unit 1.

According to a Department of Energy news release, the agreement, once formally executed, will “lay the foundation” for Romania to “utilize U.S. expertise and technology.” The deal marks a major change in Romania’s plans for its sole nuclear plant, as up until early this year the source for that expertise and technology was expected to be China.

Quotes: “Nuclear energy is crucial to ensuring Romania has a reliable, affordable, and emissions-free supply of electricity, and the U.S. nuclear industry looks forward to providing their expertise to advance this important energy source,” said Brouillette. “This agreement between the U.S. and Romania furthers our mutual energy cooperation and will strengthen the energy security of both our nations.”

Added Popescu, “Today, Romania is taking a huge step forward in the development of its strategic partnership with the United States of America in terms of the energy component, namely cooperation in the civil nuclear field.”

Context: The Cernavoda plant, located in southeastern Romania, consists of twin 650-MWe CANDU-6 pressurized heavy-water reactors, Units 1 and 2. The plant’s operator, state-owned Nuclearelectrica, signed a memorandum of understanding with China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) in November 2015 for the development, construction, operation, and decommissioning of two additional reactors, Units 3 and 4, and in May 2019 the two parties signed a preliminary agreement to that end.

In August 2019, however, just days after the United States blacklisted CGN over the alleged theft of U.S. nuclear technology for military purposes, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis and President Donald Trump signed a joint declaration that stated, in part, “The United States and Romania will consider how best to improve the energy investment climate in Romania in ways that benefit both countries. We further urge our industries to work closely together to support Romania’s civil nuclear energy goals.”

That declaration was followed in September 2019 by a U.S.-Romania MOU on strategic civilian nuclear cooperation. Then, in January of this year, Romanian Prime Minister Ludovic Orban announced that the deal with CGN would be canceled, saying, “it is clear to me that the partnership with the Chinese company is not going to work.”

Romania officially canceled the agreement with CGN in June.

Export-Import Bank Chairman Kimberly Reed (right) and Romanian Minister for Economy, Energy, and Business Climate Virgil Popescu sign the MOU at Ex-Im’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

A second signing: Also on October 9, Popescu and U.S. Export-Import Bank President and Chairman Kimberly A. Reed signed an MOU to explore and identify options to use Ex-Im financing of up to $7 billion and to promote business development opportunities.

Quote: “This agreement confirms our desire to identify potential projects in Romania for which products and services of American origin or manufacture will be procured,” said Reed. “We recognize each other’s interests and we acknowledge that increased cooperation serves our common objectives. We intend to work together to promote business development opportunities in the fields of energy and infrastructure, and I look forward to an even more fruitful friendship between America and Romania as the Romanian people gain greater access to more high-quality ‘Made in the USA’ goods and services.”

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