The woman leading the Romanian nuclear industry

In the frame of Nuclea4climate initiative, Daniela Lulache, CEO of Societatea Nationala NUCLEARELECTRICA (“SNN”) has been interviewed and explains to us her career, her missions and her beliefs on nuclear and climate change.

Could you present yourself and your career?

I am Daniela Lulache, 48 years old, born and raised in Romania. I am an economist by profession, having graduated from Bucharest Academy of Economic Studies in 1993. I continued my career path in economics, mainly in corporate finance and restructuring, structured financial products, brokerage and strategic management, management of change and principles of communication.

I held strategic top management positions over the years in both private and state-owned sectors that required high level expertise in financial management due to their inherent complexity.

Before being recruited for the position of General Manager of Nuclearelectrica in 2013, I occupied the position of Counselor of the Vice-Governor of the National Bank of Romania with responsibilities in structuring the contingency plan in case of commercial banks default while previously to this position I was General Manager and President of the Board of Directors of Fondul Proprietatea (Property Fund), managing the entire activity of the Fund (Euro 4 bill. investment fund) including startup, establishment of corporate structure and corporate governance, investment strategy design and implementation, portfolio management.

I also have a long experience in banking and financial consulting sectors.

In May of 2013, I was recruited as Chief Executive Officer of Nuclearelectrica (the only nuclear energy producer in Romania) as part of the Government’s strategy to apply corporate governance to state-owned companies.

As Europe wishes to diversify energy sources, reduce dependence on external suppliers, and reduce fossil fuel emissions, what is the role that Nuclearelectrica can play for Romania and for Europe?

Romania is one of the few states that can ensure security of supply, diversity of energy sources while reducing dependency on external resources, which is already very low, based entirely on its internal resources. Currently, the country has a well-balanced energy mix comprising nuclear, hydro, coal, gas and renewables. As the European energy policy places a high emphasis on the reduction of CO2 emissions with 40% by 2030, the mix will most likely focus more on those sources able to meet decarbonization standards. Technology neutrality in meeting these standards will move investment strategies from the one source fits all approach in terms of decarbonization towards a more balanced approach, incorporating all energy sources able to deliver the expected results. Among these sources, nuclear energy is the most stable one, with no back-up necessities, no negative impact on the grid, long-term oriented and affordable in terms of end consumers interests.
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With its two operating units, Nuclearelectrica covers approximately 20% of Romania’s consumption needs. Whenever a state has developed complete nuclear fuel cycle, doubling the nuclear capacity is a wise long-term investment that leads to a balanced choice in which source diversity and technology neutrality play a significant role. In 10 years from now the nuclear production will either replace obsolete coal-fired plants, or will provide the long-term sustainability of the energy system. Of course, there is always room for exports provided some changes are introduced into the legislation and interconnecting capacities are further developed.

From an environmental and a commercial point of view, how competitive is nuclear energy in Romania, compared to other sources?

Very competitive! This is clean energy with no impact on the environment. As it concerns the radioactive waste management, this is 100% safely controlled. I don’t know any other industry so safely regulated and standardized whose output meets so many energy system, long-term needs and consumers interests. The nuclear production has one of the lowest production costs on the market, therefore not only we support environment protection, but also end consumers. As it regards nuclear new build, the construction of new units may be cost intensive, however operation is safe and profit efficient, all these integrated to the broader picture of security of supply, diversity and decarbonization. I am personally not aware of any other resource that is so stable, so predictable and so environment and consumer friendly.

Romania has ensured its energy independence with nuclear energy for years until now. Where is the growth for nuclear, given the Post-Fukushima world?

Romania has been oriented towards nuclear growth for some years now. Due to financial crisis impact, the development of the two additional units of Cernavoda NPP has been delayed. However, since August last year we have been actively involved in following the steps of the new governmental strategy for the continuation of the two units. Currently, we are negotiating with the selected investor the Memorandum of Understanding for the joint implementation of the project, followed by the set-up of a new joint-venture (Project Company). Given all these preliminary stages, the construction of the units can be initiated no sooner than at least three years from now on. Once the project is completed, a doubling of the nuclear capacity will be achieved simultaneously with the downsizing of the coal-based production. Romania has the complete fuel cycle, the necessary expertise and the rich experience of operating the first two nuclear units at a very high level of nuclear safety, as highlighted by the results of the stress tests, therefore we meet all the conditions to advantageously increase nuclear production.
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I think that Europe needs nuclear if it wants to simultaneously address a series of challenges previously addressed on a case by case. A lot of market failures find their solution in major energy investment projects. As familiarity of investments is associated to well-known conventional energy projects, we have to take a leap of faith and move towards the new energy paradigm. If one wants different results, one has to start applying different measures.

Nuclear power has long-term potential. Opting for nuclear energy is a heavy decision that implies massive fundraising. What are the quantifiable effects of nuclear development? What has to be expected in return of such a commitment, at the scale of a country and at the scale of a continent?

Let’s resume benefits of investing in nuclear industry to the following:

Balance of payments: Anything that reduces imports is beneficial to domestic economies and a safe-guard of long-term unimpeded development. We need guarantees for security of supply, energy independence, source and price stability.

Price stability: The introduction of an additional large-scale energy source into the mix provides additional price stability.

Security of energy supply: increase in indigenous production (one of the EU desiderates) coupled with low volumes of fuel, as in the case of nuclear, are direct contributors to the security of supply.

Employment: new build involves creation of thousands of jobs both directly and horizontally. Also, having lower electricity prices supports competitiveness and growth. On the contrary, higher electricity prices due to lack of the hedging effect of other sources could result in a drop of employment and GDP.

Spin-off effect: horizontal growth either in the nuclear industry or in other industries.

What are Romania’s expectations from COP21 climate conference?

I expect an input of expertise on how we can economically address climate change by fostering those industries that can deliver quantifiable results. In order to have bio sustainable economies there’s a need to identify the innovative solutions that are able to address such a strong paradigm change.

How do you find the experience of being the first woman to hold the position of CEO of such a company as Nuclearelectrica?

Nuclear industry is state-of-art technology, exceptional human resource, complex integrated management, therefore it requires a management team with great competences. The top management of Nuclearelectrica consists in a number of great professionals whose aim is to further develop the company and set it on a constant path of growth. As it regards these positions, it is irrelevant if you are a man or woman, it’s all about results.

In the frame of the European Nuclear Young Generation Forum, what is the message you want to address to the young professionals that ponder about working in this field?

That this is an industry like no other that can give young professionals an amazing career path and personal development opportunities. I strongly encourage them to choose such a career as their professional lives will have a very dynamic journey full of challenges, motivation and satisfaction.

An interview performed by Livia Chitu

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