Atomic in Romania

LONDON (Reuters) – Romania wants to more than double its nuclear power production by 2010, bucking the trend elsewhere in Europe where atomic energy is being phased out or languishing in the doldrums, a conference heard this week. Romania, which is gearing up to join the European Union in 2007, wants to build nuclear power stations to meet booming power demand and replace aging coal-fired plants, Micea Metes, commercial director of Nuclearelectrica said late on Thursday. «The government wants to increase nuclear’s share in the energy mix to between 20 and 40 percent,» Metes, whose company owns Romania’s only nuclear power station Cernavoda, told the World Nuclear Association’s annual conference in London. Cernavoda, which opened in 1996, generates 10 percent of the country’s electricity from a 750-megawatt reactor. The plant has been shut since last month because of low water levels on the River Danube caused by a heat wave and prolonged dry spell this summer. Metes said the problems facing Cernavoda were a one-off, adding river levels were forecast to drop this low only once every 150 years. «This is an exceptional event,» he said. Metes said the European Union, which is pressing Bulgaria to shut two Soviet-designed reactors on safety grounds, had not asked Romania to halt investment in nuclear power but had made technical suggestions for the new plants. Cernavoda, built using Canadian CANDU technology, has the infrastructure in place to build four more reactors. A second reactor is being built and should be ready in 2007 while a feasibility study is being prepared for a third which is due to open in 2010-2011, he said. Fourth and fifth reactors could come online between 2013 and 2020. A surge in electricity demand as the economy recovers after a collapse when the communist government fell in 1989 and the high cost of overhauling run-down coal power stations make building nuclear power plants attractive, said Metes.