Written by Maria Olteanu
Nuclearelectrica, the Romanian state-owned nuclear company running the only nuclear plant in Romania, with 2 reactors and planning to build 2 more, with Chinese investors) has commissioned a study to analyse the impact of the fracking activities proposed by Chevron, which has 3 perimeters for shale gas south of the nuclear plant, on the nuclear plant in Cernavoda, in the South-Eastern region of Romania, Constanta county.The study has found that fracking might have an impact on the power plant and has warned against any fracking activities within a radius of 100 km around it. It is for the first time that a voice from the energy sector in Romania dares to speak out regarding fracking.
The company decided to commission the study following the massive public debate started in Romania on the issue of fracking and the concerns raised by the civil society around the issue of fracking and shale gas. The study was carried out by CITON Bucuresti during 2014, “Impact assessment of shale gas extraction on the seismicity of the CNE Cernavodă site and on the zonal tectonics and hydrology”. The research was financed with public funding provided by the National Authority for Research and Development.
The study has issued recommendations that fracking operations are not allowed within a radius of 100 km from the nuclear plant. The Chevron perimeters, especially the Adamclisi one, are located very close to the nuclear plant, 20-30 km flight distance, at the maximum. Since the evaluation issued by CITON was made from a conservationist perspective and due to the identified negative impacts of shale gas exploitation in the vicinity of the nuclear plant, the research institute recommends further studies, allowing for an interdisciplinary approach and more accurate findings.
It is for the first time that a study is being carried out in Romania with the aim of identifying the impacts of fracking on a region or on the whole country. While there was a study drafted in 2013 by the World Energy Centre – Romanian Committee, written entirely in the logic of the oil and gas industry and with no serious look at the environmental and public health impacts, entirely dismissed as not worth examining, the CITON study is the first one commissioned by a state owned body that is seriously dealing with the impacts of this technology.
It will nevertheless be no surprise if we see the oil and gas industry dismissing this study as unprofessional or as an attack of the competition, as previously done with a study signed by a team of leading geologists of the Romanian Geologic Institute, led by its scientific director. Since the Cold War rhetorics are very pervasive these days, especially in countries like Romania, and bearing in mind that the two planned reactors will be built by a Chinese Company, China General Nuclear, and since the decision of the Ponta government to work with the Chinese company has launched harsh critiques, one could easily expect the Romanian mainstream media or the politicians to easily dismiss the results of the study with Cold War era arguments.
Yet, for the Romanian civil society opposed to fracking – an ever growing portion of the Romanian civil society – this first study represents a starting point for further legitimizing their concerns in front of the Romanian authorities and the oil and gas lobby. So far, they were pointing out to the lack of studies showing that negative impacts can be expected in Romania, given the specificity of the local geological structure. A further study is expected to be finished by a team of geologists from the Romanian Geological Institute, focusing on the same elements – seismicity and impact on the water sources.
Meanwhile, the fracking frenzy was not at all put on ice in Romania, despite the declarations of the Prime Minister, Victor Ponta, who, during the electoral campaign tried to get some more votes by publicly stating that Romania has no shale gas, despite the harsh fighting, and that Chevron has found no commercially viable quantities in Pungesti, being slammed the very next day by Tom Holst, the Chevron CEO for Romania, who stated that they haven’t finished evaluating the results of their first exploration rig in Pungesti. No change of course regarding fracking and shale gas is expected by the Romanian civil society, with a new liberal majority which has a speech focused on job creation specifically by exploiting Romania’s natural resources.