How to almost start a USD 8 billion nuclear project. The CGN case

China General Nuclear Power Group
China General Nuclear Power Group board (source: en.cgnpc.com.cn/)

China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN), formerly China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group (established in 1940), is an energy corporation under the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council of China.

CGN operates nuclear plants in four locations, with five new nuclear power stations under construction and another two planned.

China General Nuclear Power Group’s foreign assets

The Chinese company’s overseas business includes the purchase of three wind farms in the UK from the British energy company EDF Energy, for a fee of £100 million.

In 2016, the US charged CGN with stealing nuclear secrets from the United States. The US Justice Department and the FBI had discovered evidence that China General Nuclear Power (CGN) had been spying and stealing US nuclear secrets for almost two decades. 

Also read: No social-democrats in power, no success for China

CGN has been charged with conspiring to help the Chinese government develop nuclear material in a manner that was in breach of US law.

The US accusations

In 2019, the US Department of Commerce added CGN to its „entity list”, barring US companies from selling products to CGN. The US Department of Commerce explained that CGN attempted to acquire advanced US nuclear technology to divert to military uses in China.

CGN’s first nuclear station used reactors designed and built by the French National Company, Framatome. Then it has developed an improved self-designed reactor called CPR-1000 based on the French type.

In 2014, Nuclearelectrica launched an investor selection procedure for the construction of reactors 3 and 4 at the Cernavodă plant. In the same year, China General Nuclear Power Corporation was approved as investor by Romanian authorities in charge of the process.

The Romanian nuclear stake

Several years of negotiations and signing of agreements followed. In 2019, under the Dăncilă (social-democrat) Cabinet, Nuclearelectrica (the operator of the Cernavodă Nuclear Power Plant, its shares being held by the Ministry of Energy) and the Chinese state giant China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) signed officially the preliminary agreement. For, of course, the continuation of the project for the construction and operation of reactors 3 and 4 at the Cernavodă Nuclear Power Plant.

JVCO was supposed to be a joint stock company, established under Law 31/1990 on companies and would have had an initial duration of two years. CGN’s participation in the project company would have been of 51% and that of SN Nuclearelectrica SA, of 49%. The investment would have been about $ 8 billion.

Dead end

At the beginning of 2020, though, Romanian Prime Minister Ludovic Orban said it was „very clear” that the partnership with China General Nuclear Power Corporation, that was supposed to build reactors 3 and 4 at the Cernavodă Nuclear Power Plant, would not be completed.

The Government is looking now for another partner for the Cernavodă Nuclear Power Plant. Prime Minister Orban did not offer any explanation for leaving the partnership with the Chinese company, saying only that, from now on, all new projects in Romania’s energy industry would depend on the EU’s Environmental Agreement, an initiative aimed at reducing CO2 emissions in the EU.

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