Italy’s Ansaldo Nucleare has signed a contract with Canada’s SNC-Lavalin to supply engineering services to support the plant life extension of unit 1 of Romania’s Cernavodă NPP. This is part of the €45m ($48m) modernisation project awarded by Romanian nuclear utility Nuclearelectrica to SNC-Lavalin.

The 650 MWe pressurised heavy-water reactor at Cernavodă 1 was commissioned in 1996 with an initial design life of 30 years. The refurbishment will extend its operating life for an additional 30 years, to 2060. The three-phase project began in 2017 with phase once lasting until February 2022. The second phase is due to end in 2026. This includes financial arrangements, negotiating engineering, procurement and construction contracts, planning the work and obtaining required authorisations and approvals. In the third phase, from 2027 to 2029, unit 1 will be closed and the necessary work completed.

Ansaldo Nucleare, the original plant designer, will be respoonsible for Balance of Plant work. The company says its experience during the construction and commissioning of Cernavodă units 1&2 “is now laying the foundations for future development of Romania’s nuclear programme” and “opens up the path to future projects such as construction of units 3&4”.

“The refurbishment of unit 1 will continue to bring multiple benefits to Romania: clean, affordable, and safe energy, preserving high quality jobs, as well as creating new ones,” says Nuclearelectrica CEO Cosmin Ghiță. The project will also bring investment to the community, and make an important contribution to local and national budget, “as well as projects for the local supply chain, in line with our vision to create a sustainable future for the next generations”, he adds.

“We are particularly proud to be a part of this project, demonstrating the faith our partners have in us and our abilities,” notes, of Ansaldo Nucleare CEO Riccardo Casale. As in the past, the company “will act as head of the Italian industry in Romania, bringing to the project not only its own contribution but the high-tech services and products of Italy’s entire nuclear industry”.

Earlier in March, SNC-Lavalin subsidiary Candu Energy signed a two-year $65m agreement with Nuclearelectrica for pre-project work on the Cernavodă 1 life extension. The work is expected to include long lead and front-end engineering services for the plant, which has two Candu units that currently supply 20% of Romania's electricity. Other supporting organisations involved in the project include Sargent & Lundy, CITON, and GE Steam Power.

Meanwhile, Nuclearelectrica has welcomed the adoption of a Law approving the signing of the Support Agreement between the Romanian State and Nuclearelectrica for the development of the National Strategic Project to construct Cernavodă units 3&4. “It is clear that without the involvement of the state and authorities in nuclear energy projects, they cannot be realised, said Cosmin Ghiță. He noted that the project “will add another 10TWh of CO2-free energy to the national energy system after 2031”.

He added: “We are investing both in the development of large capacity units, units 3&4, and small modular reactors (SMRs). Large-scale reactors can provide baseload, clean and affordable electricity, while SMRs can provide grid flexibility, complementarity with renewables, non-power applications such as heat and hydrogen. Both are needed to ensure security of supply and decarbonisation.”

The strategy for the continuation of the Cernavodă NPP projectroject was approved by Nuclearelectrica shareholders in 2021 and will be implemented in three stages.

Stage 1 began at the end of 2021 and will last up to 24 months. It involves capitalisation and operationalisation of project company Energonuclear SA. A set of necessary engineering and safety documentation will be prepared/updated (update of basic licensing documents, safety guidelines, project modifications related to nuclear safety, reassessment of existing civil structures, etc.) as the basis for a preliminary investment decision. As part of this phase, on 25 November 2021, Energonuclear signed the first contract with Candu Energy to provide engineering services to develop and update the required documentation.

Phase 2 (Preliminary Works) is estimated to take up to 30 months. It will consist of preparation of Critical Engineering (Limited Notice to Proceed – LNTP) for the definition of the Project, structuring and contracting of the financing and agreeing on an appropriate contractual architecture. It will also include obtaining the Nuclear Safety Licence for construction, reassessment of the feasibility of the project based on updated technical and economic indicators and adoption of a Final Investment Decision.

Stage 3, estimated to last 69-78 months, consists of mobilising the site, starting construction, commissioning and starting commercial operation of unit 3 in 2030 and unit 4 in 2031.

Nuclearelectrica says the intention, in line with the new strategy, is “to carry out this project in a Euro-Atlantic consortium on the basis of the Agreement between the Government of Romania and the Government of the United States of America on cooperation in relation to nuclear energy projects at Cernavodă and in the civil nuclear energy sector in Romania”. US Exim Bank has announced the issuance of two letters of interest for the financing of technical services provided by the US in connection with the Cernavodă 3&4.

Image: Cernavoda nuclear power plant (courtesy of Nuclearelectrica)