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Nuclearelectrica and consortium led by AtkinsRealis sign agreement to refurbish unit 1 of Cernavoda nuclear plant


Nuclearelectrica, together with Candu Energy Inc. (CEI), a subsidiary of the Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. doing business as AtkinsRealis, and the Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC), a federal state-owned corporation, signed a 781 million Canadian dollars agreement on Tuesday to supply reactor tooling and components, as well as services of engineering and technology, to extend the life of Unit 1 CNE Cernavoda.

According to a press release of Nuclearelectrica (SNN), the signing of the agreement took place at the World Nuclear Exhibition in Paris, during a ceremony attended by Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade of Canada (the ministry responsible for the CCC), Dan Dragan, secretary of state with the Romanian Ministry of Energy, Teodor Chirica, president of the Board of Directors of SNN, Bobby Kwon, president and general manager of CCC, Ian Edwards, president and general manager of AtkinsRealis, and Joe St. Julian, president of the Nuclear department at AtkinsRealis.

Previously, on November 7, 2023, Nuclearelectrica informed that, following the completion of the respective award procedure, it sent a note to Candu Energy Inc. and Canadian Commercial Corporation regarding the awarding of the agreement for the supply of reactor tools and components, as well as engineering and technology services, in support of the extension of the life of the CANDU reactor of Unit 1 of the Cernavoda nuclear plant.

However, the coming into force of this agreement depends on the approval of the General Assembly of the SNN Shareholders, in the context in which the CCC did receive the final approval from the Government of Canada.

According to the president of the SNN's Board of Directors, Teodor Chirica, this new agreement represents a step forward in the Refurbishment of Unit 1, as well as in the long-term cooperation between Romania and Canada in the nuclear field, which began over 55 years ago.

"Fundamentals from the nuclear power market show that there will be sustained and robust demand from governments around the world for reactor life extensions and new construction," commented Ian L. Edwards, president and CEO at AtkinsRealis.

He stated that, since the early 1970s, approximately 600 commercial nuclear reactors have been built around the world, and approximately 440 are still in operation. Many of these reactors are nearing the end of their life.

As the exclusive licensee of the CANDU intellectual property portfolio and contributing its unique experience and know-how in all aspects of CANDU technology, AtkinsRealis is the only organization that has assumed a leadership role in all life extension projects of CANDU reactors so far globally, including those successfully executed or underway in Asia, North America and South America.

The two CANDU units from Cernavoda supply 20% of Romania's electricity. Since the commissioning of the two units, in 1996 and 2007, respectively, the country avoided the release of 205 million tonnes of CO2. The long-term operation of the Cernavoda plant is essential when it comes to Romania's goal of achieving its energy stability and decarbonisation, as well as to phase out almost 4 gigawatt hours of coal-fired electricity by 2032.

The Romanian government and SNN also announced their intention to build two more CANDU reactors at Cernavoda. Four operational CANDU reactors at the plant would bring the share of nuclear energy in Romania's electricity production to 33%.

Additionally, SNN has signed a memorandum of understanding with a subsidiary of the Ontario Power Generation to collaborate on the production of life-saving medical isotopes using their CANDU reactors. The co-production of medical isotopes while the reactor simultaneously produces electricity is a unique feature of CANDU technology, already successfully exploited by CANDU operators in Ontario, the release states.

Unit 2 of the CANDU reactor at Cernavoda holds the world record for the highest capacity factor (composed of reliability and operating time) among all nuclear reactors worldwide. Ontario's CANDU technology holds the record for longest continuous operation of any nuclear reactor in the world.

The long-term exploitation of CANDU technology, both through the existing CANDU reactors at Cernavoda, and through the new CANDU reactors to be built, will contribute to Romania's potential to become a regional centre for energy security and clean electricity in Eastern Europe, with the support of Canadian technology.