US aid for Romanian nuclear power

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis
Romanian President Klaus Iohannis

The United States is watching the Romanian atom with interest. They pledged to provide Romania with more than 3 billion euros in financing for the construction of reactors 3 and 4 of the Cernavoda nuclear power plant, a city in the Constanta region.

The President of the US Export-Import Bank, Rita Jo Lewis, signed two letters of intent to finance the project, Romanian Energy Minister Virgil Popescu confirmed following a meeting on the sidelines of COP27 that the Romanian attended. President Klaus Iohannis and US Special Presidential Climate Envoy John Kerry. The first LOI covers a €50m loan that will support the development of the second phase of the two new units, which will begin in the second quarter of 2023. However, the second LOI refers to a €3bn loan that will cover the US contribution to the project as a whole.

“This is a very important step in the implementation of the agreement between Romania and the United States on cooperation with regard to the Cernavuda projects and in Romania’s civil nuclear sector,” Popescu said. “At the same time, by financially supporting the development of Romania’s civil nuclear program, the United States is sending a strong political signal.” “Romania will become independent in the field of energy, and at the same time, we will ensure our energy security with the help of nuclear energy,” the energy minister added. “Because decarbonization cannot be achieved without nuclear power.”

Someone, on this point, will have something to say. Especially at a time when nuclear energy is associated with the war in Ukraine and Russia’s constant threats to use nuclear weapons. Bucharest, however, specified that cooperation with Washington is purely energy-related. It would allow Romania to speed up the process of climate neutrality.

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The Cernavuda plant, located in the southeast of the country, operates two reactors with a capacity of 700 megawatts each, which satisfies about a fifth of Romania’s electricity needs. The Ministry of Energy owns an 82% stake in the Nuclear Electricity Company, the company that operates the plant whose shareholders decided to terminate agreements and negotiations with two Chinese companies to build the new units, in compliance with the request of the Ministry of Energy.

A few days ago, the Romanian company EnergoNuclear signed a contract with Candu Energy, a member of the Canadian Snc-Lavalin group, according to which Candu will provide engineering services for the preparation and updating of some documents necessary to restart the project for the construction of units 3 and 4 at the Cernavuda plant. Romanian liberal Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuka announced that “the first phase, the preparatory phase, will be completed by the end of the first quarter of next year.” “The second phase of preliminary works will start between March and April 2023 and will be completed in the third quarter of 2025. The third phase, which is the actual construction of the two reactors, will be completed in 2030.”

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