US grant made for Romanian SMR siting assessment

14 January 2021

Romanian national nuclear company Societatea Nationala Nuclearelectrica (SNN) has been awarded a non-refundable grant of USD1.28 million by the US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) for use in the identification of potential sites in Romania to host small modular reactors. The USTDA is an independent federal government agency focused on connecting US companies with export opportunities in emerging markets.

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Nuclearelectrica said the USTDA grant will be used to fund the cost of services required in connection with the delivery of technical assistance for a preliminary assessment of new potential SMR-compatible nuclear sites in Romania, excluding the existing Cernavoda nuclear power plant site. The funds will also be used in the development of a licensing roadmap for SMRs.

"In addition to the current development of reactors 3 and 4 [at Cernavoda], SNN is also interested in assessing the development of small modular reactors as a long-term solution to further develop the Romanian nuclear industry," said Nuclearelectrica CEO Cosmin Ghita. "We are interested in features like flexibility, modularity and higher efficiency that could provide advantages for both the energy system and businesses after 2035.

"The grant awarded by USTDA will allow us to further explore siting and technology compatibility with the proper technical assistance and have this assessment process initiated in due time for further decision-making," he added.

"USTDA is an ideal partner for Romania as it seeks cutting-edge civil nuclear energy technology for its future energy needs," said Todd Abrajano, USTDA's chief operating officer and head of agency. "Our assistance will build stronger ties between our respective industries and create new business opportunities for US industry in an important market."

The awarding of the grant followed the signing in October last year of a draft intergovernmental agreement between the USA and Romania on cooperation to expand and modernise Romania's nuclear power programme. Areas identified for cooperation include the completion of Cernavoda units 3 and 4 and the refurbishment of unit 1. It also provides for cooperation in the development of SMRs in Romania.

Nuclearelectrica said the USA and Romania are committed to the development of nuclear energy. "According to the 2020 Romanian Energy Strategy Project, the employment of small and modular nuclear reactors might be beneficial to increase energy capacities without CO2 emissions and sources of hydrogen production, after 2035," the company said.

In March 2019, American SMR developer NuScale Power and Nuclearelectrica signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the exchange of business and technical information about NuScale's nuclear technology, with the goal of evaluating the development, licensing and construction of a NuScale SMR in Romania.

Cernavoda is the only nuclear power plant in Romania and consists of two 650 MWe pressurised heavy-water reactors. Unit 1 entered commercial operation in 1996 and unit 2 in 2007. Nuclearelectrica plans to extend the operating life of unit 1 to 60 years. Most of the work on units 3 and 4 - like units 1 and 2, CANDU-6 reactors - was done in the 1980s prior to the fall of the government of Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989.

In July last year, Romania launched a tender for a new feasibility study to complete units 3 and 4.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News