The first small modular reactor (SMR) in Europe could be built in Romania, and Bulgaria is also interested in the technology. The two countries have signed agreements with American partners on the development of projects for the new type of nuclear power plants.
According to an agreement signed at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change COP26 in Glasgow, United States–based NuScale Power and Romania’s state-owned Nuclearelectrica will build a 462 MW nuclear power plant consisting of six small modular reactors (SMRs) of 77 megawatts each. The plant will be commissioned as early as 2027 or 2028, the two companies said.
The deal was backed by US President Joe Biden and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis. It was signed by NuScale Power President and CEO John Hopkins, pictured left, and Nuclearelectrica CEO Cosmin Ghita (right).
“The United States sees nuclear energy as a leading technology in global efforts to reduce emissions and expand economic opportunities and to combat climate change,” said US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm.
Decarbonization with nuclear energy is possible, Romanian Energy Minister Virgil Popescu stressed. The country intends to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 55% by 2030. There are currently seven coal-fired power plants in Romania.
In June, the parliament in Bucharest ratified the agreement with the US from 2020 for the existing Romanian nuclear power plant Cernavodă, worth USD 8 billion. That includes the completion of the construction of units 3 and 4 and the refurbishment of unit 1 of the nuclear power plant, located in southeastern Romania. The agreement received the green light from the European Commission in November last year.
Small modular reactor technology – SMR
NuScale has developed a modular lightweight water reactor for electricity and hydrogen production, district heating, desalination, and other heating processes. SMR technology uses a smaller, and scalable version of a pressurized water reactor. The company delivers and installs modules on-site, and power plants can have up to four, six, or twelve individual power modules.
NuScale is the first and only SMR technology to receive design approval from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), in August 2020. SMRs can be easily integrated with other clean energies and very quickly adjusted to specific needs and requirements in the energy network, according to the company, headquartered in Portland, Oregon. The majority investor in NuScale is Fluor Corp. from Irving, Texas.
Bulgaria also signed memorandum of understanding with American partners
Bulgaria’s Energy Holding (BEH) and US-based Fluor signed a memorandum of understanding on November 1 on planning and building new nuclear facilities with SMR technology. Another memorandum of understanding was signed in February between NuScale and the Kozloduy nuclear power plant. The two sides said they would work on numerous studies, planning and preparation and the analysis of costs and deadlines. The intention is to open new plants with SMR technology within the existing Kozloduy nuclear power plant.
Many countries in Southeastern Europe have recognized nuclear energy as an element in achieving their climate goals. Along with Romania and eight other European Union member states, Bulgaria has asked the European Commission to include nuclear power plants in its green taxonomy and label them low-carbon technology. During a recent visit to Bulgaria, Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans revealed the administration in Brussels would support the construction of the Belene nuclear power plant if Bulgaria decides to build it.
North Macedonia’s state-owned energy company Elektrani na Severna Makedonija (ESM) recently suspended investments in the Belene project. ESM estimated that the liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in Alexandroupolis, Greece, would be completed before the Bulgarian nuclear power plant.
Serbia would buy stakes in nuclear power plants in region
At the COP26 summit, President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić announced he and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban would consider the possibility of Serbia buying an ownership stake of 10% to 12% in the planned Paks 2 nuclear power plant in the neighboring country. He pointed out Serbia is interested in other nuclear power plants in the region. Serbia will discuss with Bulgarian partners the possibility to buy a stake in a nuclear power plant there as well, according to Vučić.