04BUCHAREST3439 / 2004-12-15 11:38:00
Embassy Bucharest
                UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 BUCHAREST 003439 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
1.  (U) Summary: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) 
Commissioner Jeffrey Merrifield visit to Romania in late 
September provided the USG insight into the strong Romanian 
civil nuclear program.  End Summary. 
First Visit to Romania by NRC Commissioner 
2.  (U) On September 25-28th, 2004, Commissioner Jeffrey 
Merrifield visited Bucharest, Romania and the Cernavoda 
nuclear power plant.  His Chief of Staff, Margaret Doane, 
and Jodi Lieberman, Office of International Programs, USNRC 
accompanied him.  While in Bucharest, the Commissioner met 
with Dr. Lucien Biro, Chairman of the Romanian National 
Commission for Nuclear Activities Control (CNCAN) and, at 
the close of his visit, participated in a press conference 
with Dr. Biro and local media.  He also traveled to the 
Cernavoda nuclear power plant, located roughly 1 hours 
outside of Bucharest.  This was the first visit of an NRC 
Commissioner or delegation to Romania.  The purpose of the 
visit was to discuss the regulatory and operating experience 
of the CANDU-6 reactor design in light of NRC's activities 
in connection with a U.S. utility's interest in the Advanced 
CANDU Reactor (ACR) 700. 
CNCAN President Discussions Reveal Operational Readiness 
--------------------------------------------- ----------- 
3.  (U) Commissioner Merrifield began his visit with a 
meeting at CNCAN headquarters in Bucharest with Dr. Lucian 
Biro, CNCAN President.  In addition to Dr. Biro, the 
Commissioner met with Camelia Liutiev, European Integration 
and International Cooperation Section, Viviana Grama, 
Director, Special Material Section and Lucian Goicea, 
Director, Quality Control Division.  Timothy Phillips, 
Economic Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest, also 
attended the meeting. 
4.  (U) Dr. Biro explained that the CNCAN President is 
appointed by the Prime Minister and has the status of State 
Secretary.  He reports to the Prime Minister through the 
Chancellor of the Prime Minister.  He added that much of 
CNCAN's regulatory structure was established using NRC as a 
5.  (U) Dr. Biro presented a brief history of civilian 
nuclear activities in Romania, the development of CNCAN and 
the current status of work being done to complete Unit 2 at 
the Cernavoda NPP.  Although there was significant political 
pressure to build Soviet-designed VVER reactors at 
Cernavoda, the CANDU-6 reactor design was ultimately chosen 
for the site because of its strong seismic design qualities, 
use of a containment structure, and better quality assurance 
6.  (U) Construction of the five CANDU-6 units began in 1980 
at the Cernavoda facility, during the regime of Nicolae 
Ceausescu.  Construction was halted with the demise of the 
Ceausescu regime, but work resumed in the mid-1990s with a 
decision by the new government to complete Unit 1 with the 
assistance of CANDU reactor vendor Atomic Energy of Canada 
Limited (AECL) and Italian firm Ansaldo S.A., which provided 
the "balance of plant" equipment. 
7.  (U) Unit 1 was commissioned in 1996, with Unit 2 
scheduled for completion in 2006/7.  Dr. Biro stated that 
Nuclearelectrica S.A. (SNN), the utility operating 
Cernavoda, had already implemented nearly 160 safety 
improvements at Unit 2, and had secured both a 235 million 
Euro loan, and a $400 million loan from the Canadian 
government for completion of Unit 2.  He added that SNN is 
working to secure outside investment to fund completion of 
Unit 3, noting that South Korea has expressed interest in 
providing funding for the project. 
8.  (U) Dr. Biro stated that, although CNCAN has 175 
authorized slots for employees, only 130 positions are 
currently filled.  While salaries at CNCAN are reasonably 
high, SNN is able to offer still higher salaries, making it 
difficult for Dr. Biro to attract employees.  Moreover, he 
noted that CNCAN staff attrition is a problem, with 
employees either retiring, or emigrating to Canada, the U.K. 
and South Africa.  CNCAN is a full-fee recovery agency, 
relying principally on licensee fees for its budget (as does 
NRC).  Dr. Biro explained that, as a political appointee, 
his salary is capped, preventing the salaries of his 
employees from rising as well.  However, there is some 
interest in changing his status.  Housed in a rather cramped 
section of a larger government building, CNCAN will soon 
move to its own, more elaborate building.  Dr. Biro stated 
that he had secured a 10 million euro bank loan to construct 
a new CNCAN facility in Bucharest, scheduled for completion 
by 2006/7. 
9.  (SBU) With regard to Romanian EU accession in 2007,Dr. 
Biro noted that CNCAN had implemented many of the EU Aquis 
chapter requirements and had taken steps to revise CNCAN 
regulations to be in line with those of the EU in areas such 
as physical protection, quality assurance and safeguards. 
As CNCAN also has licensing responsibility for radioactive 
sources, Dr. Biro explained that all sources above a certain 
activity level (i.e. "High-risk radioactive sources") are 
tagged so that their movement can be tracked through a GPS 
10.  (U) In response to a question posed by Commissioner 
Merrifield regarding cooperation with other CANDU 
regulators, Dr. Biro noted that the CANDU Senior Regulators' 
Group was the main forum for exchange of information.  That 
group meets annually.  He advised that Romania also has 
agreements with neighboring countries, including Greece, 
Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia and Russia for notification in 
the event of a nuclear accident or incident.  CNCAN and 
Cernavoda conduct emergency exercises and will host CONVEX 
3, an international emergency exercise organized by the 
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), next year.  Dr. 
Biro invited NRC to observe the exercise.  Although CNCAN 
currently has no emergency operations center, one will be 
included in the new building.  Cernavoda also lacks an 
offsite emergency operations center, although Dr. Biro 
stated that one will be built in the future.  Through one of 
the three cellular telephones he always carries, Dr. Biro 
has direct access to the Romanian government civil command - 
and the Prime Minister, if necessary - in the event of a 
nuclear incident or accident.  In closing, Dr. Biro 
expressed interest in touring the NRC Headquarters 
Operations Center at some point.  He visited the backup 
emergency operations center in NRC Region IV in 2001. 
Site Visit to Cernavoda 
11.  (U) Commissioner Merrifield and the delegation 
proceeded to the Cernavoda site later the same day, where 
they were met by representatives from SNN, the 
Canadian/Italian consortium "CNE-Invest", and the Romanian 
management/construction partner "CNE-PROD".  The 
Commissioner explained that a U.S. utility, Dominion Power, 
has expressed an interest in the possibility of building an 
advanced CANDU reactor, an ACR-700, at one of its stations. 
The NRC is performing a pre-application review for ACR-700 
12.  (U) Vic Stobie, the Canadian safety and licensing 
manager for CNE-Invest, presented background information on 
the construction project to complete Unit 2.  Of the 1664 
slots allocated for the project, 1457 are allocated for 
Romanian companies.  At present, the project staff consists 
of 109 AECL, 68 Ansaldo and 1288 Romanian workers.  199 
positions remain to be filled.  Mr. Stobie discussed the 
process AECL, SNN, and Ansaldo went through to review the 
existing materials and equipment in Unit 2, abandoned in the 
1980s, followed by an assessment and refurbishment program 
started in 2002.  He noted that preservation of the existing 
unit hardware was very good and that the majority of items 
to be replaced before work started on Unit 2 were so-called 
"perishable" items, e.g. those that were composed of 
elastomers.  The Commissioner asked the extent to which the 
construction/management team was able to apply efficiencies 
in Unit 2 based on lessons learned in the completion of Unit 
1.  Mr. Stobie indicated that much of the construction staff 
that had worked on Unit 1 is now working at Unit 2.  Staff 
is also coming from the CANDU plant in Qinshan, China. 
Procedures had also been updated based on Unit 1 experience. 
13.  (U) During the presentation, Dan Bigou, the Unit 1 
station manager, briefly described the inspection and 
licensing process for Cernavoda.  There are currently two 
CNCAN inspectors at Unit 1 and two at Unit 2.  All CNCAN 
inspectors have unescorted access to the plant and its 
facilities.  Unit 1 has a two-year operating license; SNN 
must apply for a license renewal every two years.  The 
process will remain the same for Unit 2.  Regarding 
licensing of Unit 2, SNN will need to seek authorization 
from CNCAN for a number of stages in the commissioning 
efforts, including authorization to receive and store heavy 
water and nuclear fuel, and authorization to load heavy 
water and for manual fuel loading.  The utility will also 
need to seek CNCAN approval for achieving criticality and 
subsequent increases of power at 25% increments until 100% 
power is reached.  CNCAN is extremely involved in licensing 
activities at Cernavoda involving Unit 1 and completion of 
unit 2.  During the visit, Dr. Biro spent a lengthy amount 
of time reviewing SNN submissions to CNCAN for permission to 
restart Unit 1, then in a maintenance outage. 
Commissioner's Visit to Unit 2 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 
14.  (U) Following discussions with SNN, AECL, and Ansaldo, 
the Commissioner toured the partially completed Unit 2.  The 
tour included visits to the spent fuel pond, the partially 
completed calandria and supporting structures, and the 
refueling machine.  Because the stainless steel calandria, 
which holds the fuel and moderator, was not yet sealed, the 
team was provided a rare inside view of the calandria vessel 
through one of the nozzle holes.  This is typically not 
possible because this hatch is an access hatch that is 
welded shut at a later period during construction 
15.  (U) The plant tour concluded with a visit to the 
Intermediate Nuclear Spent Fuel Storage facility (DICA), 
which is based on the AECL-designed "MACSTOR" system.  When 
completed, DICA will permit storage of 300,000 spent fuel 
bundles from operation of Units 1 and 2 over the next fifty 
years.  The average transfer rate is 5000 bundles per year. 
There will eventually be 27 storage modules, each of them 
having a capacity of 12,000 spent fuel bundles.  Only one 
module has thus far been completed. 
Unit 1 Tour 
16.  (U) On the second day of discussions at Cernavoda, the 
Commissioner met with Vasil Simonov, Health and Safety 
Manager (CNE-PROD), Marian Serban, Director for Technical 
Issues and Nuclear Safety (CNE-PROD) and Unit 1 manager 
Bigou.  Following a brief overview of Unit 1 operating 
information and technical characteristics, the delegation 
toured Unit 1, which was just coming out of a maintenance 
outage.  During pre-tour discussions, the Commissioner 
inquired whether the plant management maintains a corrective 
action program.  Plant Manager Bigou noted that the 
corrective action program at Cernavoda is a performance- 
based system that includes use of root cause analysis for 
events.  On average, Mr. Bigou stated that they identify and 
review roughly seven hundred events per year and hold weekly 
meetings to review the events and follow-on corrective 
action.  The plant management also maintains an event 
17.  (U) The Commissioner asked whether the plant uses level 
1 PSA to manage the backlog of corrective actions.  Mr. 
Serban responded by noting that the plant management has 
been trying to move to a more risk-based system in order to 
prioritize corrective actions in response to events and has 
been discussing this with CNCAN.  He indicated that the IAEA 
had conducted an International Probabilistic Safety 
Assessment Review Team (IPSART) mission that validated 
CNCAN's PSA model and expects to complete an external PSA by 
December 2004. 
18.  (U) The Commissioner asked if the plant management is 
confident that the staff can effectively identify problems 
for the corrective action program, to which Mr. Serban 
replied that, while the process is working well, there is 
always room for improvement.  In 2002, when the plant moved 
to an event analysis process, there was a significant 
increase in the number of events identified.  However, he 
did note that investigation reports remain an area for 
19.  (U) Mr. Bigou added that Cernavoda uses several other 
CANDUs to benchmark performance, including sister units 
Gentilly and Point Lepreau in Canada, but would also like to 
develop a relationship with a U.S. plant.  He continued 
that, as Canada moves to more U.S. style practices, 
Cernavoda can benefit indirectly because of its association 
with the Canadian plants.  Commissioner Merrifield suggested 
that the U.S. experience with restart of Browns Ferry Unit 1 
in Alabama might be helpful in completion of Unit 2 and 
potential completion of the other Cernavoda units. 
Press Conference at CNCAN Headquarters 
--------------------------------------------- --------------- 
20.  (U) Following the delegation's return to Bucharest, Dr. 
Biro arranged for a press conference with Commissioner 
Merrifield and local media at CNCAN headquarters. 
Politically adept, Dr. Biro was able to convene a 
significant number of radio, television and print press 
outlets.  The press conference was extensively covered in 
local media.  During the press conference, Dr. Biro 
presented the Commissioner with a statuette commemorating 
thirty years of U.S.-Romanian peaceful nuclear cooperation. 
Media questions were fairly benign, although one reporter 
requested the Commissioner's opinion of the recent Slovak 
Government decision to complete Units 3 and 4 at the 
Mochovce nuclear power plant, alluding that these reactors 
were to be of the same design as those at the now closed 
Chornobyl site in Ukraine. [Note: The reporter was 
incorrect.  Units 3 and 4, begun during the Soviet era, are 
likely to be similar to Units 1 and 2 at Mochovce, which are 
not "Chornobyl-style" RBMK reactors but are instead VVER- 
440/213 style units.  End note.] 
21. (SBU) Commissioner Merrifield's visit proved to be very 
informative, adding to NRC's knowledge of the unique 
Romanian civilian nuclear power programs.  CNCAN President 
Biro is a resourceful leader dedicated to ensuring a strong 
nuclear safety culture.  Although Dr. Biro's hands-on 
approach is admirable and his work thorough, CNCAN lacks 
"defense-in-depth."  Dr. Biro does not have a deputy, and it 
evident that he does not delegate very much of the key 
decision making to CNCAN management.  Should Dr. Biro be 
unable to perform his duties as President of CNCAN, it is 
questionable who on his staff would be prepared to step up 
and keep the work moving.  End Comment. 
22. (SBU) Note:  This cable is based mainly on NRC notes. 
Embassy personnel did not attend all meetings in Romania. 
End note. 

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