New consortium to support Cernavoda life extension

17 October 2023

Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) has signed a consortium agreement with Romanian nuclear utility Societatea Nationala Nuclearelectrica (SNN), Canada’s Candu Energy and Italy’s Ansaldo Nucleare, to jointly support refurbishment of unit 1 at Romania’s Cernavoda NPP. The refurbishment will extend the operational life of the reactor, which was commissioned in 1996. The 700 MWe Candu-6 has a design life of 30 years and the current operating licence is set to expire by the end of 2026.

SNN initiated the unit 1 life extension project in 2017. The project estimated to be worth up to €1.85bn ($1.94bn) is currently in phase II. which started in February 2022 and will continue until 2026. During this phase, the following main activities will include: providing the financial resources for project; negotiating and granting the Engineering, Procurement & Construction (EPC) contract; procuring equipment with a long manufacturing cycle; assessing, preparing and scheduling the activities to be carried out; obtaining the Opinion of the European Commission under Article 41 of the Euratom Treaty; and obtaining all the authorisations and approvals necessary to start the project.

Candu Energy – an AtkinsRéalis Company – is the original equipment designer and manufacturer and steward of Candu technology worldwide while Ansaldo Nucleare is the original designer of the Balance of Plant of Cernavoda units 1&2. In July 2022, Candu Energy signed the first refurbishment contract with Nuclearelectrica worth $47m for engineering and early procurement for the retubing of the reactor core. In March it signed a two-year $65m agreement to conduct pre-project work including long lead and front-end engineering services. Also in March, Ansaldo Nucleare signed a contract with Canada's SNC-Lavalin – Candu Energy's parent company – to supply engineering services for Cernavoda 1.

Phase III, which will be carried out from 2027 to 2029 will begin with the shutdown of unit 1 and will include retubing and refurbishment works and relevant testing, to enable the unit to operate for another 30 years from 2029. During the refurbishment Candu and Ansaldo Nucleare will lead the engineering and procurement aspects of Nuclear Steam Plant and Balance of Plant work respectively. KHNP, which completed a retubing project at unit 1 of its Wolsong NPP in 2009, will lead the construction phase including infrastructure such as a radioactive waste storage facility.

"The three companies will begin preparations for negotiations with SNN about the envisioned project," KHNP said, adding that the companies hope to sign a contract in the first half of 2024. The stakes of the consortium members have not yet been finalised but KHNP is expected to hold around 40%. Korea hopes the possible participation of other Korean firms such as Kepco KPS, Doosan Enerbility, Hyundai E&C, and Samsung C&T, along with various small to medium-sized nuclear enterprises, will help to support the revival of its nuclear industry.

The latest consortium agreement follows KHNP’s €195m contract from SNN in June to build a tritium removal facility for the Cernavoda by August 2027. KHNP CEO Hwang Ju-ho noted that following the contract for the tritium removal facility KHNP “maintains a relationship of deep trust with the Romanian nuclear agency”. He added: “Moving forward, we will work closely with the client and consortium members to ensure the final contract’s success.”

Cernavoda is Romania's only NPP, and has two commercially operational Candu 6 pressurised heavy water reactors supplied by Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. Construction of the two-unit station began in the early 1980s. The 700 MWe Cernavoda 1 was commissioned in December 1996 and Cernavoda 2 in 2007. Construction of three more units began, but was stopped in 1990. Cernavoda 1&2 supply about one-fifth of Romania’s electricity.

The Cernavoda 3&4 project aims to complete two further Candu 6 reactors. A draft law on the agreement to build units 3&4 was adopted by the government in December 2022 and subsequently approved by parliament. The two new units are expected to be operating by 2032. The total estimated costs of the project exceed $7bn. In September, Canada and Romania signed a CAD3bn ($2.2bn) export development deal to support construction of two new units at the Cernavoda NPP.

Image (from left): Matthew Ross, vice president of Candu Energy; Giovanbattista Patalano, vice president of Ansaldo Nucleare; and Park In-sik, director of the export business division at Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power at the signing of the new consortium agreement (courtesy of Ansaldo Energia)

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