Candu Energy, part of Canada’s SNC-Lavalin Group, has been selected by Romanian nuclear utility Nuclearelectrica SA (SNN), operator of the Cernavoda NPP, to conduct design and engineering services for the unit 1 Candu reactor at the facility, as the first step to a future life extension project. As part of the 2.5-year contract, worth roughly CAD64 million ($49.5m), SNC-Lavalin will provide engineering and early procurement services for retubing work to replace key components of the reactor core: fuel channels, pressure tubes and feeders. This would see the reactor’s operating life extended to 2060. Cernavoda 1 supplies 10% of Romania’s electricity.

“Europe is contending with the most significant energy crisis of this century; it is faced with the challenge of shifting electricity generation to sources that are Net Zero while also working to ensure the continuity of its energy supply,” commented , SNC-Lavalin President and CEO Ian L Edwards. “This project… advances the refurbishment of the Cernavoda reactor that provides Romania with energy security and has contributed to the reduction of its greenhouse gas emissions by over 10 million tonnes a year.”

SNC-Lavalin will deploy specialised personnel from its nuclear business to the Cernavoda site to carry out the work. This includes experts across design engineering, reactor engineering analysis, and procurement qualification. SNC-Lavalin said the multi-disciplinary project team will collaborate closely to bring together their expertise across feeders, fuel channel design, and stress analysis to ensure cost-effective and time-efficient project delivery. “SNC-Lavalin’s full lifecycle nuclear expertise and its best practices developed from similar work on nuclear plants in New Brunswick (Point Lepreau), Ontario (Darlington and Bruce Power), South Korea (Wolsong), and Argentina (Embalse) will also be leveraged to maximise outcomes for the Cernavoda retubing.”

SSN CEO Cosmin Ghita said: “Romania needs renewed nuclear power capacities for producing clean, stable and affordable energy, as a solution for achieving energy security and the protection of consumers… The refurbishment of unit 1 will provide Romania with another 30 years of baseload clean energy.”

The contract builds upon SNC-Lavalin's long-term framework agreement with SNN over the last 10 years, which has included multiple services such as feeder inspection & replacement, as well as fuel channel inspections and safety upgrades for the Cernavoda reactors. SNC-Lavalin also announced in May that it had been contracted to undertake performance optimisation work at unit 1.

“We are pleased to continue our forty-plus year relationship with SNN and Romania, as they prepare their Candu reactors to serve future generations as dependably as they’ve served past generations,” said Joe St Julian, President, Nuclear, SNC-Lavalin. “As the steward and original equipment manufacturer of Candu technology, no one knows this reactor, or how to execute a successful retubing of it, better than we do.”

In a note to the Bucharest Stock Exchange on 21 July, Nuclearelectrica announced signing the contract with Candu Energy, for phase II of the Cernavoda refurbishment project. “Within the contract, Candu Energy will provide engineering services for the development of the technical documentation for the procurement of long-lead reactor components, which will be replaced during refurbishment of unit 1, within the project referred to as “reactor retubing”.

It will also “offer engineering services for the assessment of the conditions of the set of specialised tools. which will be used for the replacement of the reactor components and the developing of the documentation for the procurement of the components which need to be replaced/modified”

Nuclearelectrica said Candu reactors “have an initial lifecycle of 30 years, which can be extended by another 30 years, following a refurbishment process, and this is what Nuclearelectrica is currently doing for Unit 1, which was put into commercial operation in 1996.”

Nuclearelectrica plans to operate Cernavoda 1 until the end of 2026 and then undertake the refurbishment from 2027 to 2029. The total cost of the refurbishment is estimated at €1.85 billion ($1.85bn).

Cernavoda 2, which began operation in 2007, is also expected to undergo refurbishment in 2037.

Image: Romania's Cernavoda nuclear power plant (Image: Nuclearelectrica)