Bulgaria and France to strengthen nuclear energy cooperation

27 February 2024

Bulgaria's Energy Minister Rumen Radev, during a visit to Paris has signed a declaration of intent with French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire to establish bilateral cooperation in the field of nuclear energy. The French Economy Ministry said as members of the European Nuclear Alliance, France and Bulgaria emphasise the essential role of nuclear energy to achieve the objective of climate neutrality of the European Union by 2050 and to strengthen energy security and sovereignty. The two countries will continue their co-operation both within the Alliance and bilaterally.

"This cooperation will concern, among other things, the nuclear construction programmes envisaged in the two countries, the analysis of new technologies such as small modular reactors or advanced technology reactors, the development of a European supply chain, the fuel cycle, nuclear power and the strengthening of nuclear training courses within the two countries,” the French Economy Ministry noted.

The declaration recognises the "essential role" nuclear energy will play in both countries' "efforts to strengthen energy security and sovereignty, reducing carbon emissions to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, provide affordable energy and support industrial and regional development".

It also "promotes the participation of companies from both countries in new projects, management of aging and long-term operation, dismantling and decommissioning of nuclear installations and in particular nuclear reactors" as well as analysing, with a "long-term vision, the possibilities of cooperation on new construction projects in Bulgaria based on European Gen III+ technologies including large reactors and small modular reactors".

The objective of this Declaration of Intent, according to the Bulgarian Energy Ministry, “is to establish a framework for strengthening cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy, in accordance with the national priorities and strategies of the Republic of Bulgaria and France”.

The cooperation may include the following areas:

a) Exchange between the respective nuclear programmes and strengthening cooperation between the nuclear energy industries and supply chains, on the one hand, and the technical safety organisations and the safety authorities, on the other.

b) To promote the participation of industrial enterprises of both countries in new projects including: the management of ageing and long-term exploitation; dismantling & decommissioning of nuclear installations: and in particular nuclear reactors.

c) Analysing strategically and with a long-term vision the possibilities of cooperation on new construction projects in Bulgaria based on European Gen 3+ technologies, including large reactors and small modular reactors (SMRs).

d) Identifying supply chain capabilities to support nuclear development.

(e) Promoting cooperation at all stages of the nuclear fuel cycle including: provision of nuclear materials and fuel assemblies; and used fuel management, including reprocessing, temporary storage solutions, transport solutions and waste management strategy.

f) To promoting cooperation for the support of existing nuclear parks, including the activities of nuclear service, optimisation of maintenance, modernisation, inspection and operational shutdowns.

g) Strengthening cooperation for sovereign nuclear fuel solutions.

h) Strengthening cooperation in research, development and innovation in the areas of industry and security, including waste disposal facilities for high and medium activity radioactive waste, SMRs and advanced modular reactors.

(i) Increasing exchanges on the framework relating to nuclear safety, and the assessment and management of radiological risks for people and the environment.

j) Maintaining and improving a high level of knowledge and expertise as well as a qualified and diversified workforce by strengthening cooperation in the field of training and education.

The Ministry said the signatories could extend cooperation to other areas by mutual agreement. It noted: “This Declaration of Intent is not intended to be legally binding on either of the governments and does not create any rights or obligations under international or national law.”

Bruno Le Maire said: 'We want to extend our cooperation with Bulgaria to other areas with regard to nuclear energy. This includes cooperation in the supply chain [and] skills development.” Noting that France and Bulgaria have projects of common interest on many topics, including raw materials and hydrogen, he added: “It is worth having projects of common interest in the field of nuclear energy as well.”

Rumen Radev noted: “When we share know-how on technology, education and training programmes … in the nuclear field, this means that we also share an understanding of the future, and also of our security and competitiveness, a green future based on real baseload, on low carbon energy that is secure, reliable and gives us the chance to be sustainable, competitive and to develop our economies in the best possible way.”


Image courtesy of Bulgaria's Ministry of Energy

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