Valentin Nikolov: I welcome the state's efforts to diversify Bulgaria's nuclear energy sector

Energy / Bulgaria
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I welcome the state's efforts to diversify Bulgaria's nuclear energy sector. This was stated by the chairman of the National Committee of Bulgaria in the World Energy Council, Valentin Nikolov, at a conference dedicated to the scenarios, risks and prospects for the development of nuclear energy in Bulgaria, which was held in the capital's Hyatt Hotel. According to Nikolov, a lot of work has been done in the last few years to implement the projects for the supply of fresh nuclear fuel for the Kozloduy NPP by the American company Westinghouse and the French Framatom. "We see that a few months after the chairman of the energy commission Delyan Dobrev submitted this draft decision and it received the support of the parliament, there is a clear horizon for the implementation of the Westinghouse and Framatom projects for fresh nuclear fuel and for the construction of new capacities at the Kozloduy NPP", emphasized Nikolov. He was categorical that the biggest risk before the development of any project in nuclear energy is the political risk. "Back in 2012, Westinghouse reported that the biggest risk was this. All of us who are advocates for the development of nuclear energy must work to avoid political risk," Valentin Nikolov pointed out.

"We're seeing nuclear energy come back onto the scene. We need to use this acceleration that has occurred. We have to look for every opportunity for more public and private investments," Deputy Minister of Energy Elenko Bozhkov said during the forum. He emphasized that in December 2022, Bulgaria took a serious step towards nuclear fuel diversification, when the government concluded a 10-year contract with Westinghouse for the supply of fresh nuclear fuel. "Their first delivery will be in 2024," Bozhkov pointed out. He specified that the caretaker government has also signed a contract with Framatom, again for 10 years, for the supply of fresh nuclear fuel for the 6th block, and their supply will start from 2025. "The prices from both companies are very good and are comparable to the price at which the previous supplier sells us fresh nuclear fuel," the Deputy Minister of Energy also said.

Elenko Bozhkov stated that the government wants to start construction of two blocks - block 7 and block 8 of the Kozloduy NPP, and they have already taken measures for this. "Regarding the site in Belene - we are working to build two power units there with French technology, and the existing equipment will also be used. French experts will soon arrive in Bulgaria to inspect the site there," explained the Deputy Minister of Energy. He called on the 49th Parliament to ratify a contract with the USA for the 7th and 8th blocks in Kozloduy, and a similar contract should be signed with France.

"2032 is a realistic deadline for a Westinghouse reactor to operate at the Kozloduy NPP site. Bulgaria could be the first country in Europe to put into operation such a reactor - AP 1000". This was announced by the Westinghouse representative for Bulgaria, Ivan Pironkov. According to him, there are currently 4 such reactors operating in China, and another two such units are about to be put into operation in the USA. Pironkov pointed out that 6 reactors in Ukraine, of a similar type to those at the Kozloduy NPP, have already switched to using Westinghouse nuclear fuel. 4 of them are in the Zaporizhzhia NPP and two - in the South Ukrainian NPP. "This shows that the fuel we are offering for the Kozloduy NPP is not a pilot project, but a technology that has already been tested and is working successfully and safely. Westinghouse has been developing fuel for VVER-1000 reactors since 1998, the first plant for which such fuel was developed being the Temelin NPP. For the Kozloduy NPP, we offer RWFA type nuclear fuel, which has already proven its reliability in Ukraine. We also offer repair of cartridges in cases of depressurization, because otherwise the replacement costs a lot of money," explained Pironkov. He expressed hope that the Bulgarian authorities will allow the construction of a new nuclear power plant in Kozloduy in order to preserve Bulgaria as a nuclear state.

"Westinghouse" has been developing engineering activities in Bulgaria for more than 10 years. A very large system modernization program is currently underway at the Kozloduy NPP. Our unit also works on projects in Spain, UK, UAE, South Africa, etc. Our company is the only one that has projects for refueling all types of nuclear reactors. We cover all pressurized water technologies, including VVER, as well as for boiling reactors," explained Westinghouse representative for Bulgaria Ivan Pironkov during the conference.

The chairman of "Bulatom" Bogomil Manchev expressed hope that his colleagues from "Westinghouse" will make projects for two units at the Kozloduy NPP - the 7th and 8th units. "What brought nuclear energy back is the great intensity of these technologies, which means that you can have a predictable energy price for a long time, with the need to treat small-volume, albeit complex, waste," explained Manchev. He expressed his satisfaction that the Bulgarian state is planning the development of nuclear energy based on American and French technologies, because these countries are the leaders in these technologies.

"By developing energy, we develop the economy. If the Westinghouse power unit is operational by 2038, we will be able to move towards closing coal plants in the Marish Basin. But I don't know if we will last economically until then, because of the high prices of emissions", said Bogomil Manchev. He supported the government's energy strategy 100% because it has a vision of nearly 30 years, and nuclear power requires at least 20-30 years of planning. "The state, through its universities, must prepare about 10,000 engineers to provide the necessary personnel to work on the construction and operation of the new nuclear facilities - the American and the French. Of these 10,000 engineers, only a third will remain, but such is the "expenditure rate" of highly qualified staff worldwide," Bogomil Manchev was categorical.

"Nuclear energy can and should be developed. For this purpose, governments must commit themselves even more seriously to the process. Nuclear energy enables the energy and economic development of societies. It also enables the achievement of the environmental and climate goals of the future," said Neil Wilmshurst, Chair of the US National Membership Committee and Chief Nuclear Officer of the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), in a video address to conference delegates.

During the forum, presentations and reports were also presented by the executive director of the Electricity System Operator Angelin Tsachev, by the head of the General Station Facilities Department of the Production Directorate at the Kozloduy NPP, Georgi Ignatov, by the Deputy Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Agency, Eng. Boris Stanimirov, as well as from the Deputy Executive Director of the State Enterprise "Radioactive Waste" Georgi Razlozhki.



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