(December 21, 2001) International opposition has mobilized against completion of the Cernavoda-2 reactor in Romania. Public interest groups in Canada, Italy and across Europe are calling on their respective governments, export credit agencies and the European Commission to oppose loans for the reactor that are estimated at over US$700 million.
(560.5354) Sierra Club of Canada - One CANDU reactor (Cernavoda-1) has been operating in Romania since 1996, but the Cernavoda-2 reactor is only 20 to 40% complete. The whole project was planned to consist of four reactors and the reactor buildings of unit 3 and 4 have been completed as well. The Canadian government's nuclear company, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) began construction on the reactors in 1979. AECL is a partner in the project with Ansaldo Nucleare, a state-owned Italian nuclear company. AECL and Ansaldo hope for financing of Cernavoda-2 work from three sources.
AECL is seeking about CDN$390 million (US$250 million) in financing from the Canadian government's export credit agency, the Export Development Corporation (EDC). Ansaldo is seeking Euro150 million (US$134 million) from the Italian export credit guarantee agency SACE. The Romanian state nuclear company Societatea Nationala Nuclearelectrica has asked for a loan of US$350 million from EURATOM, the European Atomic Energy Community. Decisions on all three controversial loans are imminent.
ACTION IN ITALY
In Canada, the estimated CDN$390 million loan is on the "Canada Account" of the EDC, made directly from the government's main operating account, the Consolidated Revenue Fund, because it is too risky for private sector financial institutions or the normal corporate transactions of the EDC. Canadian Government House Leader Don Boudria headed a hush-hush Canadian delegation to Romania on 8-11 October to offer official support for the project. In March 1999, 164 members of parliament - a majority of MPs including one third of the governing Liberal party - came out publicly against federal government financial support for Cernavoda-2.
Although the European Commission seems to be leaning towards support, the proposed US$350 million EURATOM loan is also controversial. In 1994, EURATOM loans outside of member states were restricted to projects "for improving the degree of safety and efficiency of nuclear power stations". This was clearly aimed at Eastern European reactors built by the former Soviet Union, and would not seem to apply to a new CANDU reactor in Romania.
Romania has no need for the electricity from the Cernavoda-2 reactor since it has a huge three-fold surplus of electrical generating capacity. In 1999, total installed capacity was 19,676 MW, and peak demand in 1998 was only 6,000 MW. Construction of the nuclear plant will cause dislocation of the existing system, and ultimately depends on electricity exports which are still unconfirmed and dubious.
AECL has released an environmental assessment document for a 45 day public comment period that began on 1 December 2001. The summary documents of the assessment are available at http://www.nuclearelectrica.ro/. The Sierra Club of Canada will comment on the environmental assessment and will seek international organizational endorsements. If your group would like to receive a copy of the comments for possible endorsement, please send an e-mail to email@example.com.
Friends of the Earth Europe, Patricia Lorenz, tel: +43 1 812 5730-20