Global Commitments Bolster Romanian NuScale Nuclear Project

A project to deploy the first NuScale 462-MWe VOYGR-6 nuclear power plant in Romania by 2029 has garnered a $275 million public-private funding commitment from the U.S., Japan, South Korea, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as part of a global infrastructure partnership.

The Romanian project may be bolstered by an additional $4 billion outlined in letters of interest issued by the U.S Export-Import Bank (EXIM) and U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) last week.

NuScale hailed the prospects, suggesting the financing “will propel the SMR power plant project to the commencement of construction at the Doicesti site.”

An Array of Projects, An Array of Backers

The nuclear technology firm is notably separately continuing work to develop a VOYGR-6 plant for the Carbon-Free Power Project (CFPP) in Idaho Falls and deploy the first of six modules at the proposed plant by December 2029. In April, CFPP received its first safety evaluation report. While the $9.24 billion project remains on track to submit a combined construction and operation license application in early January 2024, project developers continue to implement a subscription plan to vastly increase project participation (which has so far been led by public power entities).

The $275 million commitments for the Romanian NuScale plant announced on the margins of the G7 Leaders Summit in Hiroshima, Japan, on May 20 are part of the broader Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII).

PGII, a G7 initiative President Biden established in June 2022 to incentivize infrastructure funding, has an ambitious goal to raise $600 billion over the next five years alongside G7 partner countries “for the advancement of strategic, values-driven and high standard infrastructure and investment in low- and middle-income countries.” The White House on Friday said that since PGII’s launch, the U.S. has mobilized $30 billion through grants, federal financing, and private sector investments as part of the effort. 

At the summit on Friday, the U.S. notably also earmarked $3.4 million under the Just Energy Transition Partnership to develop a nuclear “pilot” based on NuScale technology in Indonesia. The pilot includes $1 million “in targeted support” from the State Department to establish the technical and regulatory capability to develop an SMR program and $2.4 million to support a feasibility study.

Another Boost for Romania’s NuScale Deployment

According to Portland, Oregon–based NuScale Power, the PGII commitment announced for the Romanian NuScale project will support procurement of long-lead materials, Phase 2 Front-End Engineering and Design (FEED) work, project management, site characterization, and regulatory analyses. Pivotally, it will also support the “development of site-specific schedule and budget estimates for project execution,” the company said.

The project stems from a June 2022 memorandum of understanding between NuScale and Nuclearelectrica, a state-owned owner and operator of Romania’s only two nuclear units—Cernavoda 1 and 2. The 650-MW CANDU 6 units, sited in southeast Romania, came online in 1996 and 2007. Bolstered with a January 2021–issued grant from the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) to pin down SMR-suitable sites, Nuclearelectrica identified Doiceşti Power Station, a former coal power plant owned by E-Infra Group, as its preferred location for its first NuScale plant. The former coal plant is located in central Romania, about three hours away from the Cernavoda nuclear plant.

In June 2022, at the G7 Summit in Germany, the U.S. government designated $14 million as part of PGII to support a front-end engineering and design (FEED) study for the project. Energy firms Nuclearelectrica and E-Infra subsidiary Nova Power & Gas in September 2022 then launched RoPower Nuclear, a 50-50 joint venture tasked with developing the VOYGR-6 plant in Doicești.

A month later, in October 2022, the  USTDA awarded a grant to RoPower to carry out the FEED study adapted to site-specific requirements at the Doiceşti Power Station, and NuScale and RoPower in December 2023 signed the contract for the FEED work.

Phase 1 of the FEED work, now underway, will span eight months. It includes  “the issuance of subcontracts to perform the environmental impact assessment and subsurface geotechnical investigation, the evaluation of site and site-specific requirements for NuScale’s standard plant design, and the development of a project-specific cost estimate,” NuScale said.

According to the State Department, the $275 million commitment announced on Friday comes from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, South Korea’s DS Private Equity, EXIM Bank Romania, Nuclearelectrica, Nova Power & Gas, and the UAE’s Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp.

This multilateral endeavor to deploy safe and secure civil nuclear technology is a testament to the essential role nuclear energy plays in the global clean energy transition and meeting our collective goal to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” the State Department noted. “The United States is committed to supporting the use of innovative clean energy technologies to power global decarbonization efforts and provide energy security and independence to partners around the world.”

Other Notable Power-Related Investments Announced at G7

Other investments the White House highlighted on Friday stemming from the PGII partnership include:

$900 million for Solar Projects in Angola. The White House noted EXIM approved an initial $900 million in financing for two solar projects—a combined 500 MW—that the Angolan government, U.S. firm AfricaGlobal Schaffer, and U.S. project developer Sun Africa are developing.

Digital Monitoring in Costa Rica. USTDA will provide technical assistance to the Costa Rican Electricity Institute to develop a monitoring and diagnostic system to enhance the utility’s management of its power generation, transmission, and distribution assets. 

50-MW Wind and Battery Storage Plant for Kenya. USTDA will provide feasibility studies to develop a 50-MW wind and battery storage plant.

Critical Minerals Processing Facility in Tanzania. The White House said it facilitated a “strategic partnership” between Tanzanian metals firm Life Zone Metals and U.S. critical minerals company TechMet. DFC is notably TechMet’s second-largest shareholder. “During the Vice President’s trip, Life Zone Metals announced a Framework Agreement with the Tanzanian Government to open a new multi-metals processing facility that will use innovative, low-emission technology to process nickel and other critical minerals mined in Tanzania, targeting delivery of battery-grade nickel to the global market as soon as 2026,” the White House said.

Separately on the margins of the G7 summit, several private entities highlighted major commitments that align with PGII.

Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), one of the world’s largest infrastructure investors, announced plans to build 1 GW of power in Brazil. It also said it plans to invest more than $5 billion through Atlas Renewable Energy over the next five years to bring online more than 5 GW of new renewable capacity across the region.  

American multinational investment bank Citi separately said it would invest in the launch of Indonesia’s state-owned geothermal developer’s first green bond worth approximately $400 million and the construction of a $346 million wind farm complex in Brazil that will reduce the carbon footprint of the local aluminum industry.

Sonal Patel is a POWER senior associate editor (@sonalcpatel@POWERmagazine).

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