Romainia’s nuclear utility SN Nuclearelectrica SA (SNN) says it put into operation its Feldioara Branch during January-March as part of its strategy for development of an integrated nuclear fuel cycle.

SNN agreed in 2021 to purchase the uranium processing line assets of Compania Nationala a Uraniului (CNU) at Feldioara as part of a plan to develop a Romanian integrated fuel cycle. In December 2022, SNN acquired a concession to some assets from CNU as well as a property right on the land related to these assets from the Ministry of Energy. These assets were then leased to FPCU Feldioara (a subsidiary of SNN) for the operation and start-up of the production process. Between January and March 2023, all the necessary steps were taken to authorise the production process and prepare the facilities for the start operation.

“The strategic decision to acquire part of Feldioara’s assets necessary for the processing of the raw material was aimed at preserving and developing the Romanian integrated nuclear fuel cycle, the integrated production capabilities in SNN,” said SNN Cosmin Ghita. It was also aimed at “ensuring the production of fuel assemblies and the optimal operation of NFP Pitesti and Cernavoda NPP, in the context of expanding the capacity of the nuclear power plant, at an advantageous transaction cost”. He added: “With investment projects worth €12bn for the upcoming decade, our purpose is to consolidate nuclear capabilities and provide Romania with full investment capacity.”

At the same time, a subsequent contract was signed with Kazakhstan’s National Atomic Company, Kazatomprom, to provide the technological requirements for UO2 production. All the necessary steps were taken to transport the uranium concentrate and deliver the contracted quantities to ensure the start of production when the subsidiary was completed, SNN said.

The transport was carried out using the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route under optimal conditions and in a very short period of time. SNN said acheiving this transport and the supply of uranium concentrates for the second time using this route confirmed that this option is a viable one and can be strengthened in the future. The Trans Caspian route was first developed in 2018 in case Kazatomprom's usual west-bound shipment route via St Petersburg became unavailable. It passes through Azerbaijan and Georgia and on to the Black Sea without entering Russian territory.

Ghita also noted that the refurbishment of Cernavoda NPP unit 1 and the project to construct units 3&4, as well as development of small modular reactors in cooperation with US-based NuScale Power, would contribute to Romania’s energy stability, socio-economic development, the development of the nuclear industry and the training of a new generation of engineers. “The completion of these projects requires solid nuclear fuel cycle infrastructure and are all overarched by SNN’s mission to reenergise Romania with clean energy beyond the 2030s,” he said. 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. The Cernavoda 3&4 project aims to complete two further Candu 6 reactors. Cernavoda 1&2 supply 20% of Romania’s electricity.

Kazatomprom confirmed that it had delivered uranium for Romania's NPP. Kazatomprom won the SNN open tender for the supply of uranium oxide to Romania's nuclear power industry in December 2022. Kazatomprom is the largest uranium producer in the world with natural uranium production totalling about 24% of the total global primary uranium production in 2021. The group has the largest uranium reserve base in the industry. Kazatomprom, together with subsidiaries, affiliates and joint organisations, is developing 26 deposits combined into 14 uranium mining enterprises. Kazatomprom’s main export markets are China, South and East Asia, North America and Europe.

Image: Kazatomprom has successfully delivered a supply of natural uranium to Romania for its NPP (courtesy of Kazatomprom)