Romanians win Euratom loan for Cernavoda-2

On 30 March, the European Commission announced its decision to approve a loan under the EU's Euratom Treaty to help finance the completion of the Cernavoda-2 power reactor unit in Romania. The Commission is granting the loan of 223.5 million euros to the Romanian National Nuclear Power Company (SNN) to ensure that the plant will meet internationally accepted safety standards.

Commenting on this development in Brussels, the ENS’s secretary general, Peter Haug, said: “With this decision, the Commission has demonstrated its commitment to maintaining the highest possible nuclear safety standards in Europe while, at the same time, providing substantial support for the Romanian economy."

“Romania will join the EU in 2007, and this is a clear sign that the European Community cares about the country's economic future. The second nuclear unit will strengthen Romania's security of energy supply. In addition, the economic viability of the Cernavoda-2 project has been confirmed by independent experts."

Unit 1 at Cernavoda went into service in 1996 and provides more than 10% of Romania's electricity, while reducing the country's dependency on oil imports for power generation. Work on completing the second unit resumed last year after internal and external funding arrangements were finalised. The Cernavoda reactors are of the CANDU 6 type, designed and built by Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL). Ansaldo of Italy is responsible for the non-nuclear side of the plant. The second unit is due to start commercial operation in 2007.

Euratom loans were originally designed to support the development of Western Europe's nuclear industry at a time when additional power generating capacity was required to meet increasing electricity demand. Loans were granted to Belgium, Germany, France, Italy and the UK.

With Europe's nuclear sector having undergone successful development, no such loans have been granted to an EU member state since 1987. All the loans had been repaid by the year 2000.

The emphasis in recent years has been on using the loans to ensure that power reactor units in Central and Eastern Europe are upgraded or completed to a level that matches Western safety standards.

In 1999, a loan worth 212.5 million euros was granted to Bulgaria for the modernisation of the two newest units (5 and 6) of the Kozloduy nuclear power plant. One year later, a loan of 688.24 million euros was allocated to Ukraine to support the completion of two reactor units at the Rovno and Khmelnitski plants.

The Commission's announcement of the loan decision can be found on the Internet.

Meanwhile, Friends of the Earth (FoE) Europe says it will ask the European Ombudsman to investigate what it calls “suspected bogus nuclear safety claims" made by the Commission regarding the loan. The environmental pressure group alleges that the Commission failed to give a detailed justification for the loan and refused access to key reports. FoE Europe also claims that the project should not qualify for a Euratom loan, as Cernavoda-2 is a Canadian reactor. The loan decision has also been strongly criticised by the Greens in the European Parliament.

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