The plans to build Romania's Cernavoda nuclear power plant are old - they were part of an energy policy
devised by the dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu who was deposed in 1989 and wanted to
build five reactors. The Cernavod? 3 and 4 reactors are based on the Canadian CANDU6
design which, according to the Western European Nuclear Regulators Association,
has not changed since 1979. There are big question marks over the reactor's
safety which shares the same design flaw as the reactor which caused the Chernobyl disaster in
reactors 2, 3, 4, and 5 was halted at Cernavod? in 1991 to concentrate
on reactor 1, which was commissioned in 1996 almost 20 years after negotiations
first started, costing the state
$2.2 billion. Cernavod? 2, commissioned in October 2007, was the last
nuclear power station to start operation in Europe.
Cernavod? 3 and 4 are not expected to start operation until 2014 and 2015 at
the state run owner and operator, says
the project will cost about 4 billion euros. As with nearly all nuclear reactor
projects, that estimate will almost certainly rise and quickly. The Romanian government
is aware of the financial risks involved. In order to keep the six strategic
investors happy, it has put extensive state aid into the project. The
Government has made a guarantee of 220 million euros, a 350 million euros subsidy
for 855 tons of heavy water, and contributed 800 million euros from the
National Development Fund. CEE Bankwatch and Greenpeace have complained about
this state aid to the European Commission.
After all this, the
two new reactors will not even be used to supply electricity to Romanian
consumers. They will instead export electricity to neighbouring countries.
The Cernavoda nuclear power plant stems from the 1980s energy plans of communist dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu, who wanted to make his country completely energy independent from others. These plans included the big dam project of the Iron Gate II, big dam projects in the Danube at Turnu Magurele and Silistra, large hydro projects in the Carpathian mountains and ambitious wind energy plans in the Danube Delta. Of these, only several hydro projects in the Carpaths and the Iron Gate II project in the Danube were finished.
After the revolution of 1990, the Cernavoda project was halted, but shortly afterward, construction of unit 1 continued, coming on-line on 11 July 1996. After this, construction of Cernavoda 2 was also restarted, which came on line on 7 August 2007.
In the early 2000s, plans to finish construction of units 3 and 4 resurfaced.
what must happen
Banks should refuse to provide capital for this project or for Electronuclear or any of the strategic investors, as the project does not work with state of the art nuclear technology (a 2nd generation reactor design), has unacceptable effects on the environment (e.g. tritium emissions), and goes counter the development of a sustainable energy policy for Romania.
Cernavoda is a small town of slightly more than 20,000 residents in
the southeast of Romania
located on the Danube River, not far from the Black
Sea. Cernavod? 1 and 2 produce approximately 18% of Romania's
electricity. Water from the Danube is used for
cooling the reactor. Traces of tritium, a radioactve isotope of hydrogen, have
been found in the water that is released back into the river from the reactor. Recommendations
have been made to relocate pregnant women and mothers with very young children,
and local residents have been advised not to eat produce grown in local gardens.
The level of tritium emitted from the CANDU6 reactors will increase to unacceptable levels if reactor 3 and 4 are permitted to upgrade. On average 60% of tritium releases occur in the Danube and 75% in the
The power station is
located in an area that is seismic active (the Vrancha breach) which has seen
heavy earthquakes in recent history. An earthquake in 1977 destroyed much of
the Romanian capital Bucharest
and caused damage in the area surrounding of Cernavoda. The CANDU 6 reactor also
lacks sufficient protection against terrorist attack.
During the Environmental Impact Assessment of Cernavoda 3 and 4, Greenpeace organised a presentation of a report by Dr. Ian Fairlie into tritium emissions from the existing reactors. During the presentation in the town hall in Cernavoda, the state owned operator Nuclearelectrica disrupted the meeting and used intrusive surveillance on Dr. Fairlie and the Greenpeace team. All attendants at the meeting were registered by taking in their ID cards at the entrance of the town hall. Local human rights activists criticised the resulting lack of opportunity for local inhabitants to discuss the findings presented by Dr. Fairlie freely. Romanian law clearly assigns responsibility for the safe operation of the reactors to the operator, Nuclearelectrica.
Clearly, pregnant women and children up to 4 years old are more
vulnerable to the high tritium emissions of CANDU 6 reactors. This risk of exposure will become even higher
should the two new planned reactors come on stream.
The Romanian Government is aware of the financial risks involved in this project. In order to convince the six strategic investors, they decided to put extensive state aid into the project, but did not sufficiently realise this will be in breach with European state aid regulations.
The Government decided to grant a government guarantee for 220 Million Euro, a subsidy for 855 tons of heavy water for the sum of 350 Million Euro and 800 Million Euro from the National Development Fund, from which 20 Million Euro is to be allocated in 2009. CEE Bankwatch and Greenpeace have complained about this state aid to the European Commission.1
The Environmental Impact Assessment of the Cernavoda 3,4 is currently in its final stages.
The Romanian government is looking for possible financial models for the project. A government decision including government loan guarantees, subsidies for heavy water and direct investment from the government budget structural funds had to be reconsidered, as they would constitute illegal state aid.