A delegation from the Department of Energy arrived in Romania in late July to discuss bilateral energy cooperation and Romania’s expansion plans for its sole nuclear power plant, Cernavoda. The delegation was led by Kathryn Huff, acting assistant secretary and principal deputy assistant secretary for the Office of Nuclear Energy.
On July 30, Nuclearelectrica, the state-owned utility that operates Cernavoda, announced the delegation’s visit to the facility, located in southeastern Romania. According to the announcement, the visit “envisages the continuation of the cooperation” based on the intergovernmental agreement approved on July 16 by Romanian president Klaus Iohannis. (The deal had been initialed in Washington, D.C., last October and ratified by the Romanian Senate in June of this year by a vote of 129 to 1.)
Reportedly worth some $8 billion, the agreement calls for cooperation on completing the construction of Units 3 and 4 at Cernavoda, as well as the refurbishment of Unit 1. The European Commission gave its nod to the agreement last November.
The Units 3 and 4 project, Nuclearelectrica explained in its announcement, consists of three stages: the preparatory stage (24 months), preliminary works stage (18–24 months), and construction stage (69–78 months). The utility estimated that Unit 3 will enter commercial operation in 2030 and Unit 4 in 2031.
Background: Cernavoda houses 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.