Cosmin Ghita, CEO Nuclearelectrica: “We aim to become a regional trendsetter in nuclear energy”
Nuclearelectrica has managed to continue or to develop major investment projects in 2021 whilst increasing its perspectives on the capitals market.
“2021 was a good year for Nuclearelectrica: financially, operationally, investment, human resources wise and innovation wise. (…) Most of my efforts in 2021 were directed towards Nuclearelectrica’s investment projects within the context of decarbonization coupled with Romania’s need for a robust and safe energy system,” Cosmin Ghita, CEO Nuclearelectrica told The Diplomat-Bucharest.
COMMITMENT TO PERFORMANCE | Business Evolution, Projects, PERFORMANCE, Figures
How would you describe the evolution of your company in 2021?
“2021 was a good year for Nuclearelectrica: financially, operationally, investment, human resources wise and innovation wise. We have accomplished a lot in 2021, we have managed to continue or to develop major investment projects, to take the new human resource strategy to a new level, to digitalize significantly our company, to increase our position and perspectives on the capital market.
However most of my efforts in 2021 were directed towards Nuclearelectrica’s investment projects within the context of decarbonization coupled with Romania’s need for a robust and safe energy system. We continued the refurbishment of Unit 1, according to the schedule, and we are to complete the first stage of the project in early 2022, the feasibility study. The purpose is to have another 30 years of safe and clean operation after 2028, in a very efficient and cost-effective manner. Refurbishments of nuclear units are confirmed to have the lowest levelized cost of electricity of all energy sources, renewables included.
We also continued the Cernavoda Nuclear Power Plant Units 3 and 4 Project. We reoperationalized EnergoNuclear, the project company, and already signed one major contract with CANDU Energy as part of the first stage of the project. We are doing our best to develop the project within the established timeframe and have Unit 3 connected to the grid in 2030 and Unit 4 in 2031, just at the right time for Romania to meet its decarbonization targets in a reliable manner whilst phasing out coal-based capacities. According to the PNIESC, Romania’s aim is to generate 55% clean energy by 2030 and nuclear, as many international studies support, is an essential part of this objective.
Also, an equally important project for Romania’s meeting its decarbonation targets and energy security are the small modular reactors deployment. We have worked this year to achieve this intention with NuScale technology, around 2028. We have teamed up with NuScale, the US based company which owns the most advanced and the only licensed SMR technology, in order to provide a stable and clean energy alternative to areas where coal will no longer be an option and, at the same time, allow these areas to continue to socio-economically develop. We are looking at a 6 module power plant, with an installed capacity of 462 MWe, able to generate 193 permanent power plant jobs, 1.500 construction jobs, 2.300 manufacturing jobs and help Romania avoid 4 tons of CO2 emissions per year.
In addition to these benefits, Romania, based on its 25 years of nuclear expertise, has a huge opportunity to be at the forefront of SMR development in the region by developing a strong domestic supply chain that could further expand regionally and by training specialists given the fact that Romania will be the first country in the region to own and operate a SMR full scope simulator.”
What were your company’s business achievements in 2021?
“I will briefly state a few as last year we have set ourselves quite a busy agenda for 2021, and looking back today I can proudly say that Nuclearelectrica team has managed to achieve most of our objectives, even though it was a difficult year:
- Maintain excellence in operation and nuclear safety and our top position worldwide in terms of capacity factor which is rewarding as in 2021 we celebrated 25 years of operation of Unit 1.
- Increase in our financial results as part of a solid sales strategy
- Near Completion of stage 1 of the Refurbishment project of Cernavoda Nuclear Power Plant Unit 1 according to the schedule, even if a major part of this stage unfolded throughout 2020 and 2021 difficult pandemic years
- Continuation of Cernavoda NPP Units 3 and 4 Project and signing of the first contract with CANDU Energy
- The teaming agreement with NuScale for the deployment of SMRs in 2028 and the $ 1,2 million grant from USTDA, in early 2021, to assess potential sites for SMR deployment
- Implementation of the HR strategy, as we had an ambitious plan to hire 500 people by the end of 2021 and we succeeded in hiring more than 500. Besides this, we aim at growing a new generation of specialists and for this we offer as well scholarship programs, apprenticeship, internship, mentorship and dual learning systems.
- The acquisition of a part of Feldioara’s assets, namely the processing line, which will allow us to develop our internal fuel processing and manufacturing capabilities and maintain Romania’s nuclear fuel integrated capabilities doubled by the diversification of the company’s raw material supply possibilities.
- And of course, SNN’s positioning on the capital market with a constantly appreciating share price, market capitalization and increased interest from the investor community.
- However, all of the above are the result of a great team of specialists to whom I would like to thank and acknowledge their professionalism every chance I get.”
STRATEGY & VISION | RETHINK STRATEGY & PRIORITIES
What challenges have you faced as a CEO/ leader during 2021?
“It was a very busy year, and somehow a tough continuation of 2020, so my first concern was the wellbeing of my colleagues, as they are the driving force of every project, idea, result of the company. Therefore, making sure that we stay safe and protected was a top priority and a challenge. Besides this, challenges are objectives and they are inherent to any significant endeavor that an organization goes through. Nonetheless, a significant factor that kept us moving forward at a rapid pace was an already build in resilience from previous years and people’s professionalism, their expertise, capability and adaptability to working in less than normal conditions.”
What priorities and business strategy focus do you have in 2022?
“Definitely the continuation of our strategic investment projects: refurbishment of Unit 1, Unit 3 and 4, small modular reactors and, in this context, training and growing our new nuclear generation. These 3 main projects are complementary: what large fleet reactors lack is added by SMRs, in terms of flexibility, remote access, backup for renewables. Our purpose is to become a regional trendsetter in nuclear – we will do this by showcasing nuclear energy clear benefits, the clean energy which is reliable, cost effective and stable, with outstanding socio-economic advantages; by develop Nuclearelectica, the Romanian supply chain; by exporting our expertise; by acting as a strategic supporter for decarbonization, energy security, consumer protection. By 2031, we aim to reach 66% contribution of clean nuclear energy in Romania’s energy mix. There’s no real, time and cost efficient decarbonization without nuclear energy.”
PEOPLE & COMMUNITY | FOCUS ON SAFETY, SOCIAL APPROACH, LEVERAGE THE POWER OF COMMUNITY
What initiatives & projects did the company run in 2021 in CSR and social projects?
“For 2021 we split our CSR budget into 2 major directions: half of it for the Cernavoda community as we are responsible for the wellbeing of the communities we activate in. We supported educational and medical programs, trying to provide the community with better educational tools and facilitate their access to reliable healthcare. Also, we offered as well as environmental support for the forestation of certain areas that needed such activities. The other half was directed for the rest of the country, proving financial support on educational, medical and environmental projects, since our CSR strategy for 2021 was tailored to include these three main areas based on an assessment of needs.”
KEEN ON GREEN | SUSTAINABLE, GREENER, COMMUNITY & ENVIRONMENTALLY FOCUS
“Nuclear energy is a big part of the decarbonization solution, therefore every project we develop has a definite clean environment and sustainability component. The reason nuclear is a solid decarbonization and friendly environmental solution is the lack of CO2 emissions, NOx emissions, NOx emissions. Actually, by operating two CANDU reactors we avoid the release of 10 million tons of CO2 per year and after 2031, with 4 CANDU reactors running, we will reach 20 millions tons of CO2 avoided each year, which will probably place us as the most important clean energy generator in Romania. If we add a 6 module SMR power plant, 4 million tons of CO2 avoided will be added every single year.
We are extremely responsible with our burnt fuel, which is stored onsite in a water pool for the first 6 years after its removal from the reactor and then for 50 years into a Fuel Storage which 24/7 monitored by AIEA. The environmental component is extremely regulated and our doses are way below the legal limits.
Furthermore, we are assessing and implementing every solution to enhance our environmental footprint and one of our investment project, the Tritium Removal Facility, a 190 million Euro Project is in full development process.
Corroborated, as mentioned, our CSR programs are very much in sync with our operational and investment projects since we are a keen supporter of clean air, hence our involvement in forestation.”
DIGITAL DNA | Grasping tech, digital innovation, customer -driven, building new bridges
“We started our digital innovation strategy in 2019, however the COVID19 pandemic forced us to accelerate the pace in 2020. Our purpose was to facilitate working processes, HR management, e-learning, procurement processes, uniformization of company processes, digitalization of certain production processes, internal infrastructure and provide cyber safety of the data and employees.
From 2019, throughout 2020 and 2021, we have managed to implement 12 digital innovation projects, we have 16 digital innovation projects under implementation process, so all together our strategy included 28 projects.
In future, very few companies will continue to work in the traditional manner. We are not looking towards digital innovation because this is a trend, but because our company needs are as such. Digital innovation protects employees, enables their work and time, protects company infrastructure and processes. The future is digital.”
2021 IN 3 KEY WORDS
“Resilience, Investments, Team”
2022 IN 3 KEY WORDS OR MORE
“Development, strength, cooperation, contribution, responsibility”