Romania has ratified a draft intergovernmental agreement signed in 2020 with the United States on cooperation in the field of nuclear energy. Initialed last October by Romania’s energy minister, Virgil Popescu, and the then U.S. energy secretary Dan Brouillette, the agreement, reportedly worth some $8 billion, calls for cooperation on completing the construction of Units 3 and 4 at Romania’s Cernavoda nuclear power plant, as well as the refurbishment of Unit 1. The European Commission gave its nod to the agreement last November.
The deal was ratified by the Romanian Senate on June 22 by a vote of 129 to 1 (with two abstentions). It now proceeds to the desk of Romanian president Klaus Iohannis for approval.
Pact impacts: Completion of the proposed Cernavoda projects would result in significantly reduced carbon dioxide emissions—from 10 million tons of CO2 avoided each year to 20 million tons after 2031, according to a June 23 press release from Nuclearelectrica, the state-owned Romanian utility that operates Cernavoda. The projects would also contribute to the development of the internal supply chain, generate up to an additional 9,000 jobs, and stimulate research, innovation, and development in the nuclear industry, Nuclearelectrica said.
Background: Romania’s sole nuclear power facility, Cernavoda consists of two operating 650-MWe CANDU-6 pressurized heavy-water reactors, Units 1 and 2, plus the partially completed Units 3 and 4, also CANDU-6 reactors, work on which was halted not long after the collapse of the Ceausescu regime in 1989.
In November 2015, Nuclearelectrica signed a memorandum of understanding with China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) for the development, construction, operation, and decommissioning of 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, Iohannis and President 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 last 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 2020.