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Romania seeks Chinese boost for nuke plant

Aug. 19, 2011 at 6:20 AM   |   Comments

BEIJING, Aug. 19 (UPI) -- Romania says it is courting investments from China for its plans to restart a stalled $5.8 billion expansion of its only nuclear power plant.

Romanian Prime Minister Emil Boc this week told a Chinese audience at the Romanian-Chinese Economic Forum in Beijing he wants to turn his country into a "gateway for China into the European market," asserting it has important economic advantages.

Romania, he said, wants to be part of "the new modern Silk Road," in which political and trade relations between the two countries could be strengthened.

He also said he's hoping to persuade Chinese investors to look at 20 public-private infrastructure projects in Romania, including the stalled building of two new reactors at the Cernavoda nuclear power plant, Units 3 and 4.

There's already Chinese interest in it, said Romanian Economy Minister Ion Ariton, who said last week the China Nuclear Power Engineering Co. will sign a confidentiality agreement in October as part of a due diligence look at a possible investment in Cernavoda.

In May the government said consortium of two South Korean companies led by KEPCO International had also shown interest in the nuclear plant.

The government had hoped to have the new reactors online by August 2017 but has moved the completion date to 2019 after the German energy company RWE, Spain's Iberdrola and GDF Suez of France all exited the project.

The companies sold their stakes in the Cernavoda project to the state owned Nuclearelectrica for $5.8 million in January, citing "economic and market uncertainties surrounding this project, related for the most part to the present financial crisis."

The state owns 85 percent of the project but is seeking to diminish that stake to 40 percent after a private investor is found, the Romanian online business news publication RomaniaInsider.com reported.

Cernavoda's two existing reactors have an installed capacity of 720 megawatts which would be doubled with the addition of Units 3 and 4, the government says.

Boc is also seeking Chinese investment in other critical Romanian infrastructure projects.

While in Beijing, the prime minister pitched potential investors on new two new coal-fired power plants (a $1 billion project) as well as new highway and subway lines and bridge over the Danube River, the Romanian news portal Web site ACTMedia reported.

The government is also seeking to sell a 15 percent stake of Transelectrica, the state-owned electric utility, with the State Grid Corp. of China reportedly interested.

Boc in Beijing touted Romania's relatively low levels of sovereign debt at a time when Greece, Portugal, Ireland and other European countries are dealing with financial crises.

"The prudence of budget and fiscal policies, maintaining the public debt in an absolutely reasonable limit and the executive's commitment not to allow budget slippages through populist economic policies affecting the country's macro-economic stability, are important arguments for the security of investments in Romania," he said.

Chinese President Hu Jintao for his part said Beijing is ready to collaborate with Romania on economic, commercial, scientific and other areas, the state-owned Chinese news agency Xinhua reported.

© 2011 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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