Covid-19: Impact on the Worldwide Nuclear Market

It is very clear we are not out of the COVID-19 woods just yet. With the UK formally in the steepest recession in its history, New Zealand back in partial lockdown and spikes being seen across Europe, never mind the dreadful toll being seen across the Americas, the impact on trade will be far reaching and sustained.

The nuclear industry, whilst not immune, is enjoying some good news stories. In the UAE the Barakah nuclear power plant Unit 1 has achieved its criticality, with construction of Unit 2 officially completed in July. Reactors in both China and India have achieved key milestones. Work at Hinkley Point C also continues too, with Unit 2 following the footsteps of Unit 1. Whilst revised working practices have been put into place to cope with COVID-19 restrictions, the resilience shown demonstrates the drive to ensure this key UK infrastructure project be completed as close to schedule as possible.

Romania is to undertake a major refurbishment of Cernavoda Unit 1 from 2026. Whilst the major portion of the critical reactor components will come from Canada, Romania is keen to achieve ‘value for money’ and therefore opportunities will occur for those keen to develop this interesting and exciting market. By way of example, specialist US/UK companies are already in closing negotiation discussions. The door remains open and in accordance with EU Procurement contracts will be announced through the EU Procurement portal, Tenders Electronic Daily. Romania has again declared its intention to complete the CANDU type Units 3 & 4 at Cernavoda, and, for those with rather deep pockets, a negotiated settlement is available. Opportunities to support the development of Romania’s waste repository also exist.

Japan and China are amongst a number of vibrant markets for those who can make the personal long-term commitment, however, with the current travel restrictions unlikely to be eased much before Q4 2020, companies should look to refine their product offering and market presentations.

It is interesting to note that in markets that historically have relied upon ‘collective consensus in decision-making’, the internet meeting has found a role. Whilst the lack of personal contact has created stress, business is taking place albeit with considerable added caution. Given the lack of opportunities for face-to-face meetings, including those at informal gatherings and trade conferences, businesses should seriously investigate the value of agents and client-based partnerships.

In closing this short piece on trade in the new COVID driven business environment, remember that the nuclear market is very buoyant, with approval or construction of over 100 new reactors already granted, reactor life extension underway to ensure climate change obligations are achieved at minimal cost, and radioactive waste management and disposal providing the ultimate world-class environmental solution to our global and vital nuclear industry.

About the Author

John Ireland is an internationally experienced energy specialist and senior business executive skilled in the development, negotiation, and management of businesses and technically complex contracts within both the Government and private sectors. John, a Chartered Engineer and Fellow of the Institution of Chemical Engineers, has been Chief Engineer advising clients on nuclear new build in Romania and investigating opportunities in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Turkey, and Project Manager for the treatment and management of toxic and radio-toxic chemical wastes in the UK, Japan, and the EU.

Prospect Law is a multi-disciplinary practice with specialist expertise in the energy and environmental sectors with particular experience in the low carbon energy sector. The firm is made up of lawyers, engineers, surveyors and finance experts.

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