Nuclearelectrica: A Romanian brand
When it comes to nuclear energy, Romania is top of the performance chain. Set up in 1998, Nuclearelectrica is today one of the most important producers in the country, covering approximately 20% of Romania's consumption needs
The company owns and operates the only nuclear power plant, located in Cernavoda, with two CANDU 6 operating units, each with an installed capacity of 706 MWh. Also, the company owns Pitesti Nuclear Fuel Plant ("FCN Pitesti"), subsidiary that produces the nuclear fuel bundles necessary for the operation of Cernavoda NPP. FCN Pitesti is the only authorized company in the world, except Canada, by AECL Canada (current Candu Energy) and Zircatec Precision Industries Canada to produce CANDU 6 nuclear fuel bundles and today is a performant mix of Canadian initial know-how and Romanian innovation and update. In terms of nuclear fuel manufacturing, Nuclearelectrica's FCN Pitesti is state of the art.
Nuclearelectrica is one of the very few Romanian companies for which performance has become daily routine as it has learnt along the years to optimally use its resources: human, material and financial. With high operating ambitions, the company has strived to reach international ranks and stay there. For years now, both units of Cernavoda NPP rank among the best in the world based on their capacity factors, and based on their results, Romania ranks first in the world in terms of capacity factor since in service out of 398 nuclear units worldwide belonging to 178 nuclear power plants in 29 countries.
When asked what is behind this outstanding results, Nuclearelectrica's CEO simply says: "Highly specialized human resources: experts, a mentality driven by constant improvement and results, a constant benchmarking with the best practices and regulations at global level, an undivided attention to nuclear safety in all its complexity, an integrated management process and very professional support expertise areas personnel at company level. This is Nuclearelectrica. Commitment to excellence. Action to achieve it!"
And one can easily trust and rely on their inner perspective of doing business: it is repeatedly confirmed by international experts during international peer review missions. Nuclear industry is assessed by independent, external parties, therefore defensive, "nice to say and hear statements" on behalf of its representatives can be as easily verified. Even tough, the results of the stress tests required by the European Commission and the related assessment of the European nuclear experts spoke highly of the nuclear safety level of Cernavoda NPP and robustness of the used technology, Nuclearelectrica continues to strategically invest in nuclear safety. The company has a well thought out plan of investment for the period 2013-2017 comprising nuclear safety enhancements, upgrade of the physical protection system, further development of a major strategic project regarding the construction of the intermediary spent fuel repository destined to accommodate the radioactive waste for four units in operation, given the well-known strategic doubling of capacity by constructing Units 3 and 4 on the same Cernavoda NPP site. In close relation to the development of two additional units, FCN Pitesti has plans to also double its capacity as to meet the needs of nuclear fuel for four units.
"When we think of long-term future of the company we can only think in terms of expansion, development and associated operational, production and financial growth. Of course, major investments like the refurbishment of Units 1 and 2 when they reach their initial life span limit of 30 years involves considerable investment, but this investment mean additional 30 years of production and financial gain. Like any other business player, we think in terms of higher profit and turnover as these reflect the economic aspects of a solid company, as these are the basis for ensuring the same high standards of nuclear safety. However, Nuclearelectrica is first and foremost a provider for the energy system and for the end consumer by meeting security of supply conditions and price affordability. And the future of nuclear sounds good: we constantly do a reality check and reality tells us that at least at European level, the new energy strategy and energy union will have to place emphasis on nuclear if Europe wants to have balanced, stable, consumer oriented energy mix", says Daniela Lulache, CEO. "There's room for all sources, however only one is stable, base-load and carbon free. Fluctuations and overburdening of the system are not features of reliable energy systems. We need to develop such fully functional systems that translate into fully functional energy markets. And in between have a satisfied and rightfully treated end consumer. The magic words are: level-playing field", she continues.
The core of the European energy strategy highlights the need to increase indigenous energy production, reduce its dependence upon external suppliers, and encourage diversity in the energy mix in order to meet its energy needs.
53% of all Europe's energy comes from imports, among which 88% of is oil, 66% gas, 42% coal. The risk for security of supply is, therefore, exponential and the costs are huge: more than 1 billion euros/day.
On the other hand, Romania is one of the very few states that have a low dependency on import sources compared to other European member states that are heavily dependent, 6 of them on a single source. Romania is again one of the few states that can eliminate its dependency percentage based entirely on its internal resources and simultaneously meet decarbonization targets. Romania is perfectly able to boost technology neutrality as the solution to meet both energy security and decarbonization targets and play a significant role in the region.
And here comes the role of further developing nuclear energy production: doubling the nuclear capacity is a wise long-term investment that leads to a balanced choice in which source diversity and technology neutrality play a significant role. The further development of nuclear industry in Romania ensures reliability, affordability and decarbonization. Romania is one of the few countries in the world that has developed complete fuel cycle. While Europe is 95% dependent on nuclear fuel imports, Romania is 100% self-reliable. Nuclear is key to environmental concerns and it has a hedging effect on other sources price increase.
Europe is keen to reduce fossil fuel and replace them by low-emission sources of energy, which makes sense in the 2030s energy estimated context. However, cold hard fact is that only readily available large-scale sources that deliver continuous and stable electricity can effectively impact positive climate change.
"I think that Europe has learnt the lesson of security of supply. Vulnerability to interrupted delivery should increase attention to natural resources like uranium, which are abundant and affordable. It is mainly the availability and affordability of nuclear fuel and the volatility offossil fuel prices which make nuclear the most cost-effective of all base-load available sources. On the other hand, the nuclear industry has to de-risk nuclear projects that is thoroughly explain them to the investor pools from their very early stages. I know the industry, so if I were an investor, nuclear would be appealing to me if only for the fact that it is insensitive to both gas and carbon prices, therefore a rise in these prices would make nuclear more competitive and I would perceive an investment in nuclear as a hedge against volatility and risk of both gas and carbon prices. Increased use of sources like nuclear adds pressure on the sources it displaces and leads to their decreasing future prices"- says CEO Daniela Lulache.
And she is right as studies conducted have clearly shown the effect of nuclear power's contribution on fossil fuel by suspending nuclear power production globally, immediately or over a 10-year period. What they found was a rise in oil and coal prices resulting in a decline of GDP and the burdening of the end consumer, not to mention the irreversible impact in climate change. The effect of this increase in prices would differ depending on the states' degree of dependence on imported fuels.
Nuclear power plants are expensive to build but relatively cheap to run on the long term. The 65 reactors under construction and the 165 planned new built stand as prove to this statement. Waste disposal and decommissioning costs are included in the operating costs. If the social, health and environmental costs of fossil fuels are also taken into account, the economics of nuclear power are outstanding.
All the more reason in addition to the objectives of the European energy strategy to go ahead with the development of Units 3 and 4 of Cernavoda NPP. They match all safety and strategic conditions in this complex scenario: Europe's objectives on security of supply, domestic energy investment boost, decarbonization and price affordability and Nuclearelectrica's high level of expertise, nuclear safety and personnel. The project already received the positive opinion of the European Commission on the basis of art. 41 of the EURATOM Treaty and in 2013 it was awarded the environmental agreement issued by the Ministry of Environment.
"We are very proud of what and how we do it!"-says the CEO. Nuclearelectrica is a company with its own recipe of success and they are not shy in showing it. It is 100% percent Romanian success story.