EnergoService CEO Georgi Manchev: Bulgaria's Nuclear Energy Needs Less Politics, More National Interest
Exclusive interview with Mr. Georgi Manchev, CEO of the EnergoService company, for the "Investors of the Decade" Business Survey of Novinite.com (Sofia News Agency) and Novinite.bg.
Would you present the EnergoService company, and the services that you offer?
EnergoService was founded in 2005. It maintains and trains teams of highly qualified specialists who carry out regular functionality and operation tests of various systems for automation of technological processes. This includes planned monthly technical servicing, planned outage services, warranty services, repairs, walkdown and inspections, as well as emergency repairs, and ad hoc technical maintenance.
With our transparent policies, honesty, and loyalty towards partners and clients, EnergoService is an exclusive partner for supplying parts and components to leading firms such as Westinghouse Electric Company (USA) and APANTEC (USA). The services that we provide to all clients include – but are not limited to – supply and installation of equipment, spare parts and materials, providing spare parts during outages, as well as maintaining supplies in stock.
We have a qualified expert team with rich experience and offer various products, while also performing engineering services – project management, operation and quality procedures development for technical servicing of information, automation, and management systems; project documentation for: dismantling and installation activities; measuring devices and automation; risk analysis and assessment; maintenance of data bases; preparing reports, analyses and programs, training and self-training materials.
Your services are focused on a hi-tech field. What is it that the public needs to know about nuclear energy automation?
Contemporary nuclear energy automation is a very hi-tech product which is indispensable to the safe development and operation of nuclear power plants. What is more, there are very few firms that have developed such a high quality and globally recognized product, and we are proud of providing our services and working with the global leader in this field – Westinghouse.
Many of the nuclear power plants around the world are equipped with the systems of Westinghouse, and their application at the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant has brought it to one of the top safety and efficiency spots. Of course, all of that is achieved with lots of efforts, hard work, responsibility, and constant training.
What are the projects that your company is currently implementing? What kind of experience do you have, including when it comes to international partnerships?
EnergyService has a contract with the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant EAD for service and maintenance of computer information and control system "Ovation®" primary and secondary loop and Radiation Monitoring System (RMS) for the ventilation stacks of Units 5 and 6 and the Auxiliary building. This service guarantees the operability and functioning of the NPP systems.
On these projects, we are working actively with Westinghouse and APANTEC. "Ovation®" is a trademark of Emerson Process Management.
At the end of 2011, in cooperation with NUKEM Technologies GmbH, EnergoService successfully completed a project for meteorological certification of the Air Activity Monitoring System for aerosol and gas emissions into the environment (product of Thermo Fisher Scientific), installed in the Dry Storage Facility for Spent Nuclear Fuel at the Kozloduy NPP site.
Recently, EnergoService was awarded to represent products of Mirion Technologies, which are well known on the market with their brands MGP and RADOS.
EnergoService is an engineering company? What is the level of engineering talent in Bulgaria in your field? Is there a shortage of skilled labor?
There are highly qualified specialists in Bulgaria from the older generation but unfortunately there is a sort of a gap between them and their younger colleagues. This knowledge vacuum needs to be filled in order to ensure that there is consistency.
EnergoService is constantly training its employees at the firms that manufacture the equipment so that our engineers can keep pace with the latest technologies and systems. In the recent years, we have been working actively to create a career development system for our staff.
Energy and nuclear energy in particular, is an economic sector that is highly regulated by the government. How do you view the business environment in Bulgaria in your field? What improvements need to be carried out?
There is too much political influence which comes at the expense of financial justifications and analyses; there is a lack of a consistent government policy and strategy that would be in line with the national interests of Bulgaria.
Another major problem in many cases is the negative attitude of the media and the lack of clarification of the long-term benefits of nuclear energy that would be presented objectively, and in a language that is understandable to the public.
In energy development, we could not evade nuclear energy unless, of course, we prefer to use expensive electricity imports and even more expensive energy from alternative sources.
How has your work been affected by the nuclear disaster at Japan's Fukushima NPP, and the so called nuclear stress tests?
Our work has changed very little since Fukushima. The changes are mostly connected with an upcoming boost of safety requirements. It affected our field to the extent that all current and future projects started to be revised and have been delayed.
Everybody is expecting the new safety regulations, which, however, haven't materialized yet, and so many of the suppliers and contractors are waiting because they are afraid there might be some new requirement later that they might not have fulfilled.
As a whole, the Bulgarian nuclear power plant in Kozloduy has been applying for many years obligatory standards, good engineering practices, and safety methods that were only a matter of good will in Japan, and were not imposed by the state there.
As I mentioned earlier, the Bulgarian nuclear power plant is an international example when it comes to safety. Nobody in Bulgaria affords to save money at the expense of safety. The results that we got from the latest stress tests have only confirmed that.
Is it realistic to try to do away with nuclear energy – as some countries have already taken a decision to do that? And if it might be realistic for countries like Germany, could it be realistic for a country such as Bulgaria?
One of the greatest arguments against nuclear energy is that it is not sufficiently safe and secure. The environmental impact of a nuclear accident in which gases and particles are emitted is severe but it can be controlled and minimized through proper engineering, technical and organization measures as early as the planning stage by the Architect Engineer as well as by the operator of the respective nuclear facility through the construction of containments, decontamination facilities, introduction of preventive control and follow-up measures, continuous training, and increasing the nuclear facility safety culture.
What about the environmental impact of cars? Up until 10 years ago, fuel contained lead that was directly emitted into the atmosphere. Do you know how much lead has been sent into the environment, got soaked into the soil, and into the underground waters? Do you think that car manufacturers will ever clean it up?
Politicians' fears, the lack of clear messages, the lack of position by nuclear regulators have worsened the negative impact of a single accident in which there were two events that led to an beyond the design basis accident in the Japanese nuclear power plant designed back in the 1960s: the earthquake that the NPP withstood as a whole, and kept working, and the tsunami waves that terminated the normal cooling of the reactors and the pressurized facilities.
Look at Germany. After Angela Merkel's official renouncement of nuclear energy, a decision made under pressure by the Greens, in order to preserve her government, the Temelin NPP in the Czech Republic has fully re-oriented its production in order export electricity to Germany, with the Czech Republic covering its own energy needs with cheap electricity from Ukraine.
In 2012, the Czech government plans to hold a tender for the construction of 5 new nuclear units. It is expected that in the near future it will start the construction of a power transmission line using the latest technologies guaranteeing the lowest possible energy losses whose end point will be Northern Italy.
The government of the UK is awaiting the completion of the licensing process of third generation reactors in order to start tenders for the construction of up to six new nuclear facilities. The Bulgarian government has also assumed a waiting position before taking a final decision as to what type of facilities it is to build and where they will be located.
With respect to Germany – it is unrealistic – if they follow through with their populist promise to close down all of their NPPs, then the amount of energy from facilities replacing theirs can only come from abroad. I.e. they will start doing what other non-nuclear countries – such as Austria and Italy – are doing – importing electricity from neighboring states such as France and the Czech Republic. If the Germany economy would try to work with expensive import energy or with even more expensive energy from renewable energy sources, such a scenario will be disastrous for Bulgaria in the near future.
Another contradiction appears from the desire of Germany and Europe as a whole to use more and more electric or hybrid cars. Here is the statistical data: if 50% of the cars in Germany are replaced with electric vehicles additional 18 GW of energy production facilities should be available for providing energy to charge them. At the same time there have been no comments as to where these new capacities will come from.
Bulgaria's nuclear power plant Kozloduy often comes under attack in international media. How do you evaluate the level of professionalism and safety procedures there?
The setting of a NPP on the territory of any given state automatically increases its national security. For large nuclear states such as the USA, Russia, and France, there are restriction lists imposing bans on the exports of nuclear technologies and dual-use goods. Fortunately, Bulgaria is not on any of these lists as a result of its prudent, transparent, and consistent policy with respect to the nuclear industry.
Attacks on part of the international media are unjustified and I hope that all of that is in the past already. As I mentioned, the Bulgarian nuclear power plant is among the global leaders when it comes to safety. In the past decades, the Kozloduy NPP has been subjected to numerous inspections by the IAAE, WANO, and the EU.
The high level of competence and knowledge of the staff, the strict adherence to working and operational instructions and documents connected with rules and safe operation of the facilities from the primary and secondary loop have indisputably proved the safety of the NPP.
We are also No. 1 in Europe with respect to continuous operation without actuation of emergency reactor safety systems– 7 years for Unit 5 and 14 years for Unit 6. So in most cases all attacks against the Bulgarian NPP have been politically and financially motivated.
Many people disapprove the Bulgaria's capability to produce cheap electricity, which in most cases is sufficient for exports as well. It is most feasible to impose on us greenhouse emission quotas or to shut down facilities that don't meet the environmental requirements. Not to mention the creating of the renewable energy bubble which is a very profitable business for all producers of such technologies.
What is the vision for the future development of your company, EnergoService?
As a result of our expert and practical experience as well as our consistent company policy, EnergoService is about to attract as partners some hi-tech foreign companies working in the nuclear energy sphere. Our goal is a part of their operations to be outsourced in Bulgaria and so to create new jobs.
In a long-term, we will work to realize offset deals so that some of the hi-tech products could be assembled and tested in Bulgaria. We are also aiming to design and construct a laboratory testing complex that will be of use for the companies working in this field.
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