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The Romanian state nuclear power corporation, Nuclearelectrica, (or Societatea Nationala Nuclearelectrica S A, SNN) was established in 1998. The Company reports to the Ministry of Industry and Finance and the state owns 100% of the shares. Its main role is to operate Romania’s Cernavoda nuclear facility, and manufacture nuclear fuel.

In the late 1970s the Ceacescu regime, which ran Romania between 1965 and 1989, considered both Russian VVER-440 reactors and Canadian CANDU technology, but eventually decided to adopt the latter. Five Candu reactors were planned at Cernavoda on the River Danube. Construction of the first reactor 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 transferred to an Atomic Energy Canada Ltd-Ansaldo (Canadian-Italian) consortium. [1] Unit 1 (655MW) was connected to the grid in mid 1996 and entered commercial operation in December 1996. The second reactor (655MW) started operation in May 2007, and is due to enter commercial operation in September 2007. [2] In 2005 Cernavoda-1 supplied 5.1 TWh – about 10% of Romania’s electricity demand. It also supplied 176 GJ of district heating.

Romania joined the European Community on 1 January, 2007.


In 2000 the government decided that completion of Cernavoda-2 was a high priority, despite lack of funds and the fact that the country had adequate supplies of electricity. [3] The Government supplied some EUR 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 EUR 382.5 million package announced by the government, including EUR 218 million from Canada. In 2004 a EUR 223.5 million Euratom loan was approved by the European Commission for completion of unit 2, including upgrades. The Export Credit Agencies of Italy and the USA are also helping.

The reactor, being built by the AECL-Ansaldo-Nuclearelectrica management team, is expected to have a final cost EUR 777 million. World Nuclear News reports that it may reach 100% power in July 2007. [4]

Almost 70 NGOs around the globe, including from Europe and Canada, commented on the Environmental Impact Assessment Summary provided by AECL. Some of the principal deficiencies in the environmental assessment included: lack of an adequate public consultation process; failure to consider alternatives; failure to assess the consequences of a catastrophic accident; failure to conduct an adequate Probabilistic Risk Assessment; failure to assess security provisions and ability to defend against a terrorist attack; failure to disclose the seismic risks; and failure to identify the full range of decommissioning activities required to rehabilitate the site and manage associated nuclear wastes in perpetuity. [5]

Cernavoda 3 to 5

In 2002 efforts got under way to resume work on unit 3, and Nuclearelectrica 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 720 MWe Candu 6 reactor - 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 Nuclearelectrica completing unit 3 itself. However, it was decided to proceed with creating a project joint venture with Nuclearelectrica to complete both 720 MWe units in a EUR 2.2 billion project. This would be an independent power producer with Nuclearelectrica providing operation and maintenance. Twelve potential investors have been selected from 15 initial bidders, and no shareholder will have more than 50% of equity. A tentative schedule is for commissioning unit 3 in 2014 and unit 4 in 2015. Nuclearelectrica also plans to complete unit 5 by 2020.

All three of the private distributors in Romania - all without generating capacity - have expressed an interest in being involved in the project, including Enel,[6] the Czech state-run energy company CEZ, [7] and the German utility Eon. Investors interested in bidding for the construction of the two nuclear reactors have until August 10, 2007 to submit their offers. The winning bidders are to be selected by October 29. Enel acquired the Romanian electricity distributor Electrica Muntenia Sud (EMS) for EUR 820m in June 2007. It is expected that a project company will be formed and construction will start in March 2008.

Other bidders include AES Corp. (US), Electrabel (Belgium), RWE Group (Germany), Iberdrola (Spain), Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (South Korea), and a consortium of a Luxembourg investment firm and Turkey's Dogan Energji Yatirimlari/Dogus Holding. The International Consortium of Ansaldo and Atomic Energy Canada Ltd was also accepted for further negotiations on the project. According to a Romanian press report, so far BRD-Groupe Societe Generale, Merrill Lynch, Calyon and Fortis Bank have expressed interest in financing the Cernavoda.

The presence among the bidders of big European utilities that can't build new nuclear plants on their home turf, like Eon, RWE Group, Enel and Electrabel, testifies to the potential attractiveness of the terms of the offer. Platts Nucleonics Week reported that the presence of Eon and RWE Group was seen as a warning to the German federal government that, if it continues to uphold the nuclear phase-out, German utilities will make nuclear investments elsewhere. Eon says it is betting on eastern Europe becoming a major nuclear power producer before 2020." Areva and German utilities continue to scope out investment opportunities in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania. [8]

Romania deluded about costs and benefits

The Romanian environmental NGO TERRA Mileniul III complains about the lack of public involvement in the Environmental Impact Assessment process for the construction of Cernavoda 3 and 4. The scoping stage of the EIA was carried out by a private committee established by the Environmental Protection Agency – Constanta. [9] Similarly, South Eastern Europe Development Watch complains that feasibility studies for reactors 3 & 4 are kept secret by Nuclearelectrica. It will not even release old feasibility studies for Cernavoda 2.

One particularly worrying impact which is virtually unique to Candu reactors is the large discharges of radioactive tritium. Tritium (radioactive isotope of hydrogen) discharges from Candu reactors are very large – around 100 times greater than tritium discharges from other kinds of nuclear reactors. Tritium has a radioactive half life of about 12 years which means it stays around in the environment for a long time. It has many unusual properties - extremely rapid transport in the environment, quick uptake by humans, fast exchange mechanisms with other hydrogen atoms, and the ability to bind with organic molecules in our bodies during cell formation and cell metabolism. Tritium emissions to air result in all downwind matter containing hydrogen becoming tritiated. This results in people drinking, breathing and absorbing tritium-contaminated water, and eating tritium-contaminated food. All the time. Because tritium is radioactive, this means an increased risk of cancers, congenital malformations and genetic effects. [10]

Sustainable options closed off

The hunt for investors for the new reactors is being carried out in the absence of a national energy strategy, thus determining the energy sector's trajectory by default and closing off sustainable alternative options. Investors will have no accident liability, nor any responsibility to fund decommissioning and radioactive waste management costs. Nor will electricity prices include these costs, thus allowing nuclear to be promoted as a cheap source of electricity. Cernavoda 1 has been in operation for ten years already, but no funds have been set aside for waste management and decommissioning. Cernavoda 1 was forced to suspend operations in 2003 due to a drought and the lack of cooling water in the Danube. Hydro-technical works are included in the Cernavoda 3 and 4 projects, but it is unclear how much help these will be and they will add significantly to the project’s costs. Concern has already been expressed that Cernavoda may have to close again in August 2007 due to drought. [11]

Romania is a net electricity exporter. The second reactor will add to these exports. State-guaranteed loans appear to be subsidising private investors to build nuclear reactors in Romania to produce electricity for export with only dis-benefits for the Romanian public.

Energy efficiency the first priority

Romania's existing policies for the energy sector prioritise increasing energy efficiency, but in practice the Government appears to want to maintain subsidies for fossil fuel and nuclear power. Energy efficiency is very low throughout the Romanian economy and large amounts of energy could be saved by taking simple and mostly cheap measures. [12] According to Greenpeace, Romania uses 50% more energy, and produces almost 5 times more CO2 per Euro GDP than the EU average. [13] The Government itself says that economic development cannot take place on a sustainable basis without increasing energy efficiency. [14]

Renewable prospects

Greenpeace also says Romania has very good prospects for renewable energy. 80% of Romanian electricity consumption could be produced by wind and biomass alone. TERRA Milleniul III quotes the National Strategy for Revaluation of Renewable Energy Sources which says that Romania has a remarkable potential for renewable energy sources (solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, biomass). During EU accession negotiations Romania accepted a target of producing 33% of its electricity from renewable energy by 2010.

Euratom Loan

An international coalition of around 35 environmental organizations launched a campaign to "Stop Euratom loan for Cernavoda II", in December 2001. The coalition included all major Italian NGOs, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and WWF. Protests were also held against plans to support Cernavoda II by the Italian export credit agency – SACE. [15] According to Friends of the Earth, although Euratom loans could go to a defined group of non-EU states (Romania didn’t become a member until 2007), the money should only be used for safety upgrades for example of older Soviet design nuclear power plants. Since Cernavoda 2 is of Canadian reactor design, which was only partially built in 2001, the Romanian reactor should not have been granted a loan. [16] Euratom’s decision on the loan probably influenced that of other funders such as the Export Credit Agencies. [17]

Applications for Euratom loans are currently kept secret. Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE) has called for more openness and transparency in the process. For example, four assessment reports on Cernavoda 2, commissioned by the European Commission, were not made public. [18]

The Euratom loan for Cernavoda 2 was approved on 30th March 2004. [19]

Pro-nuclear Nuclearelectrica

Nuclearelectrica[20] is a member of Foratom. The Romanian Nuclear Energy Association (AREN)[21] is afilliated to the European Nuclear Society[22] and has concluded cooperation agreements with similar organisations from Bulgaria, France, Slovenia, USA and Canada.


  1. World Nuclear Association Briefing on Romania, May, 2007.
  2. First criticality for Cernavoda NPP Unit-2, Nuclearelectrica website, 6 May, 2007. See also: Cernavoda nuclear power plant achieves first criticality, Energy Business Review 9 May, 2007.
  3. Cernavoda 2 NPP, Romania, Bankwatch website, accessed 4 July, 2007.
  4. Cernavoda decision forthcoming, World Nuclear News, 29 June, 2007.
  5. NGO comments on Cernavoda-2 EA summary by AECL, Sierra Club Canada, 16 January, 2002.
  6. Enel pledges support for Romanian energy industry, Energy Business Review, 30 May, 2007.
  7. Czech energy giant CEZ mulls nuclear reactors for Romania's Cernavoda plant – analysts, Interfax, 26 June, 2007.
  8. Nucleonics Week Volume 47, Number 27, 6 July, 2006.
  9. 2 more nuclear reactors at Cernavoda: Romania still deluded about costs and benefits, South Eastern Europe Development Watch, Bulletin No.13 18 April, 2007.
  10. Greenpeace warns of high levels of nuclear waste near nuclear plants, Greenpeace Canada Press Release, 12 June, 2007.
  11. Romania nuclear plant in Cernavoda may shut down due to severe drought,, 3 July, 2007.
  12. Cernavoda Reactors 3 & 4: Irresponsible Development, TERRA Mileniul III Press Release, 14 March, 2007.
  13. Greenpeace action against the Romanian Cernavoda nuclear power plant, Greenpeace Press Release, 15 August, 2005.
  14. Letter from TERRA Milleniul III to the Romanian Prime Minister, 16 May, 2006.
  15. EU to finance a nuclear power plant in Romania? FoE Europe Press Release, 12 December, 2001.
  16. EU to finance a nuclear power plant in Romania? No to Euratom loan for Cernavoda II, FoE Europe Briefing December, 2001.
  17. Talk by Antonio Tricarico, Coordinator, Campagna per la Riforma della Banca Mondiale, Italy: Cernavoda II – A new reactor for Romania? at Euratom Conference, After 45 years of nuclear promotion, time for change. September 2002, European Parliament, Brussels. See also: Cernavoda 2 NPP in Romania, a test case for the coherence of EU policies in accession countries, Campagna per la riforma della Banca mondiale, May, 2003.
  18. Letter from Mark Johnston, Friends of the Earth Europe to all European Commissioners, 26 February, 2004. Also see: EU Commission called on to reveal nuclear funding secrets, Friends of the Earth Europe Press Release, 1 March, 2004.
  19. Dates of Reference in the Romanian Nuclear Energy Field, Nuclearelectrica website, accessed 5 July, 2007.
  20. Nuclearelectrica website
  21. AREN website
  22. European Nuclear Society website

External Links

Societatea Nationala Nuclearelectrica. CANDU owners group website

Cernavoda Nuclear Power Plant, Romania, CANDU Projects, AECL website.

Cernavoda, CANDU reactors, AECL website.

Romania’s Cernavoda-2 nuclear reactor, Sierra Club Canada Backgrounder, December, 2001.

NPP Cernavoda-2: Comments to the documents provided for the EIA, by Antonia Wenisch, Erika Ganglberger, Austrian Institute for Applied Ecology and Heinz Högelsberger, Global 2000 (Friends of the Earth Austria) on behalf of Campagna per la Riforma della Banca mondiale Vienna, November, 2002.

Cernavoda-2: Exporting Nuclear Risks, WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor, 15 February, 2002

Cernavoda Unit 2 NPP, Environmental Assessment Summary, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, December 2001.