Stanislav Georgiev: Bulgaria needs nuclear power

Исполнительный секретарь Болгарского атомного форума “Булатом” Станислав ГЕОРГИЕВ дал онлайн-интервью сайту AtomInfo.Bg. Оригинальный текст интервью – по этой ссылке.

Прочтите интервью здесь:

The following is a translation of the interview in English:

Mr. Georgiev, what contribution can nuclear energy make to the fight against climate change? Can nuclear energy be called “green” energy?

Nuclear power not only can, but should be recognized as a “green” source of electricity, because it is. Yes, nuclear power is a source of problems of a different kind, but they are solvable in the long run.

Non-governmental organization of the European level “Foratom”(“Bulatom” is a member of “Foratom”) for more than two years he has been fighting for the official inclusion of nuclear energy in the framework of the programs of the European Commission.

Unfortunately, political decisions – be it at the European or local level – are always taken after something unacceptable happens in real life in the energy sector. In this case, we are talking about the current energy crisis and the constant rise in energy and electricity prices.

In our opinion, nuclear power is the future main source of basic electricity generation, and it is only a matter of time before this becomes a reality!

But keep in mind that decisions to build new nuclear facilities have always been and will always be political decisions!

How do you assess the prospects for small modular reactors? Will they replace high-power reactors in the future or will they be able to coexist with them?

This direction of development of nuclear power today is still at the initial stage of implementation. It should be noted that the leaders in this direction are specialists from the United States and Russia.

For better or worse, these types of nuclear installations are licensed for implementation in the United States and Russia, but not in the European Union, and only Russia has a built prototype.

In order to realistically assess whether the future has such a reactor direction, one should rely on references obtained at actually built plants after their long-term operation.

Small countries such as Bulgaria can take part in this process. But the implementation of any such project in our country will require a license approved by the European Union. The project will also need to comply with the regulatory requirements of Bulgaria, and it is not a fact that this will work out right away.

What is the importance of Belene NPP for Bulgaria? How do you assess the prospects of this project?

Bulatom has never separated two potential projects for the construction of new nuclear facilities in Bulgaria – at the Belen site and at Kozloduy.

The Bulgarian energy sector needs both of these projects. This became more than clear against the backdrop of the energy crisis, in which we are not mere participants, but victims.

It should be taken into account that, as a member of the European Union, Bulgaria is obliged to comply with its decisions to achieve zero emissions by 2050. This means close to 3000 MW(coal – Approx. AtomInfo.Ru) capacities “Maritsa-iztok”. Let’s add the fact that units No. 5/6 of the Kozloduy NPP will be able to operate until 2047 and 2051, respectively.

Thus, it appears that the only alternative to maintain emission-free baseline capacity in Bulgaria is to build 4,000 MW of new nuclear capacity.

What scenario, in your opinion, is optimal for the management of SNF from new nuclear units in Bulgaria – the return of SNF to the supplier for reprocessing, the construction of dry storage facilities in Bulgaria, the final (geological) disposal in Bulgaria, or some other scenario?

Let’s first build new blocks and only then talk about this issue. I hope that by then there will be new knowledge.

At the moment, the Kozloduy NPP first stores SNF in the spent fuel pools at units No. 5/6 for 5-10 years. Then it is moved to the so-called wet SNF storage at the plant site for a period of up to 20 years. Dry storage in containers is also used, now this is done for spent nuclear fuel from units Nos. 1-4.

NPP “Kozloduy” intends to announce a tender for the supply of containers for dry storage of SNF from units No. 5/6. With this approach, the operating organization postpones the final solution of the SNF problem for up to 80 years.

The disadvantage of this approach is that we still do not have references for the state of spent nuclear fuel after this time period. No one knows what state the stored spent nuclear fuel will be in and what can be done with it. But at the moment, for nuclear power managers, the issue is being resolved in this way.

The strategy for decommissioning units No. 1-4 of the Kozloduy NPP and resolving the issue of the fate of their SNF states that it is necessary to study the possibilities of building a deep geological storage facility for SNF in Bulgaria.

My personal opinion is that such a repository will never be built in our country. At the municipal level, people have formed a new consciousness and new requirements for the cleanliness and safety of the environment, and they simply will not allow such a project to be implemented.

The return of SNF to the fuel supplier (today it is TVEL, Russia) is potentially possible, but now this process has been stopped. Reasons: legislative (in the countries through which SNF is transported), political (new requirements in Russia), financial (the cost of the service). Finally, it is not clear what to do with the spent nuclear fuel processing waste, which will return to Bulgaria at some point, this will happen sooner or later. And if the supplier of fresh fuel changes, then this scheme is likely to be impossible.

There is also a scheme for solving the SNF problem proposed by France. It includes the following steps:

  • reception and processing of SNF;
  • storage of spent nuclear fuel processing waste in the storage facility of the country that received the spent nuclear fuel for a certain period of time;
  • design, construction and commissioning of a specialized storage facility for SNF reprocessing waste on the territory of the SNF sender country;
  • return of SNF reprocessing waste for storage in the constructed storage facility.

The issue here is financial and ideological (in the sense that the Bulgarian authorities accept this approach as a methodology!).

What is your attitude to the projects of fourth generation reactors? What is more profitable – to pause and wait for generation IV reactors to appear on the market or to build those reactors that are available now (generation III)?

Generation IV reactors are already in operation. These are the so-called fast reactors – for example, the operating unit with a capacity of 850 MW(e) in Russia.

The question is when this technology will become widely available for industrial applications. It is most likely that another 20-30 years are needed to solve this problem.

Waiting for the industrial application of generation IV reactors is a possible approach, but for countries with energy systems that do not require changes for at least 20-30 years.

We have a different situation, changes are knocking at our door today. In addition, Bulgaria is a small country and we cannot afford to build a nuclear facility that is not licensed in the European Union.

But perhaps the day will come when it will be possible to build such reactors in Bulgaria as well.

Last question. What is the future of nuclear power in Bulgaria?

Without nuclear energy, the functioning of the Bulgarian energy system is impossible – neither now nor in the future.

It is the only technology that produces electricity in the base mode at predictable prices in the long term. It can also be used as a tool for managing crises associated with rising prices for non-nuclear energy carriers that are used to generate electricity.

Thank you, Mr. Georgiev, for the interview!