The Council of the European Union authorised the European Commission to negotiate a broad partnership agreement for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy between the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) and Russia. A date for the start of these negotiations is not yet set.
Among the subjects that will be put on the negotiating table are all the aspects of nuclear cooperation such as trade, safety and safeguards in accordance with the relevant international norms and agreements. The agreement is expected to facilitate equitable access of both partners to the respective markets.
Russia is one of the main global suppliers of nuclear materials and equipment. At the same time it is also a key supplier of nuclear fuel and related nuclear fuel cycle services to nuclear power plant operators in the European Union.
Several European member states are operating reactors of Russian design and others are planned. Besides the importance of Russia as a nuclear supplier to the EU, nuclear safety, nuclear liability and non-proliferation are other important aspects of the bilateral relations.
The latest EU enlargement and the renewed interest in nuclear energy as one way of reducing CO2 emissions have made it necessary for the European Union to negotiate with Russia a broad partnership agreement. Nuclear energy is an important component of the European Union energy mix, generating almost one third of the EU carbon free electricity.
In some of the countries that acceded the EU, there are Soviet designed reactors, some of which are currently still in operation. Some reactors were closed down following the EU accession because of shortcomings in their safety features. Older reactors in Bulgaria during 2007 and in Slovakia during 2006 were shut down as part of their accession agreements to the European Union.
Bulgaria joined the European Union in 2007 and, as a result, the Kozloduy 3 and 4 V-230 design 440 MWe reactor units were shut down as they did not meet the European Union standards.
Russia's Atomstoryexport has been chosen to supply two reactors at the Bulgarian’s Belene site. Each one will supply about 1000MWe and are scheduled to deliver power in 2011 and 2013, and so will fill the gap in energy supply that was left by the closure of the older reactors.
The closure of Slovakia's unit 1 of the Bohunice plant's V1 block opened the way for Slovakia joining the European Union in 2004. The reactor was also of the V-230 design. The two units of the V2 block have been modernised. Two more modern VVER-1000 reactors at Bohunice and Mochovce are still operational. There are plans to complete two further reactors at Mochovce.
In Romania, the Cernavoda 1 reactor was not affected by Romania's accession to the European Union. It is a pressurised heavy water CANDU design of Canadian origin. The units that were shut down are all VVER pressurised water reactors supplied by the Soviet Union.
In February of this year EnergoNuclear SA signed an agreement with Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) to assess the viability of and define what is required to complete the commissioning of Cernavoda 3 and 4, both 720MWe reactors. The unit 3 is expected to go on line in 2016 and unit 4 in 2017. The state nuclear power corporation Societatae Nationala Nuclearelectrica (SNN) plans to complete Cernavoda unit 5 by 2020.
But, the Romanian government is considering now to build further nuclear capacity at other sites. The plans foresee ten CANDU and three VVER-1000 units.
Currently, 146 nuclear power plants are operating in the European Union. In Russia, there are 40 nuclear power plants operating or under construction. Furthermore, 44 installations are planned until the year 2030. Until today, the EU has concluded nuclear cooperation agreements with four major suppliers of nuclear material, the United States, Canada, Australia and Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Japan. An agreement limited to research and development has been signed with China.
Agreements are in the process of being renegotiated with Canada and Australia.