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Memorandum of ZPP on the plans to build a nuclear power plant in Poland



Warsaw, 19 September 2022 

 

Memorandum of ZPP on the plans to build a nuclear power plant in Poland

 

Familiarise yourself with the memorandum of the ZPP on the development of the Polish nuclear power industry. Get to know:

  • the opinion of Polish people on the construction of a nuclear power plant,
  • the latest plans of the government in that matter,
  • whether it is only the administration that has an idea for nuclear energy,
  • whether our neighbours are building nuclear power plants or they are closing them down,
  • when and how much electricity will the plant generate,
  • whether the plant means expenditure or is it independence and benefits?

An investor for the first large-capacity nuclear power plant in Poland is to be selected in the coming weeks. Projects involving the creation of smaller modular units are also being developed. The social perception of the nuclear power plant, in Poland and abroad, is improving. The neighboring countries also make significant use of nuclear sources of energy. In the opinion of the Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers, despite the great costs and relatively long investment process Poland will need nuclear sources of energy in the future.

The support for nuclear power in Poland is steadily increasing. Based on the CBOS study conducted in 2006, the percentage of people against nuclear energy was as high as 56%. [1] Over more than 15 years, the sentiment has changed and, according to the Ministry of Climate and Environment, public support for the construction of a nuclear power plant in Poland was 62.5% in November 2020. [2] Moreover, already during the ongoing energy crisis and military actions in Ukraine, according to a study published on 3 August this year (source: ARC Market and Opinion), as many as 64% of the respondents were in favour of speeding up works related to the construction of large nuclear power plants. [3]

12 August 1971 can be considered as the beginning of nuclear energy in Poland, as on that day, the government decided to build a power plant. More than half a century later, in December 2021,  the company Polskie Elektrownie Jądrowe indicated the seaside municipality of Choczewo as the site for the construction of the first Polish nuclear power plant.  The construction works are planned to start in 2026, and the first unit of the power plant, with a capacity of approximately 1-1.6 GW, is to be commissioned after six years. The remaining six units, with a total installed capacity of approximately 9 GW, are expected to be commissioned every two or three years. [4]

Since 1971, a lot has changed in the field of safety and efficiency of nuclear units. There are also new technical concepts for scaling up a nuclear installation. Parallel to the government’s project to build a high-capacity nuclear power plant, the largest Polish companies are interested in launching the so-called Small Modular Reactors,  as they are considered to be more ”efficient”, both in terms of investment implementation period and management of such reactors. The capacity of modular nuclear reactors, that consist of several individual reactors, can be adapted to local needs and network conditions. Additionally, that type of power plants, due to the variety of technologies being developed, may find a wide range of applications in the future, depending on the needs of investors – starting from the generation of electricity, through the production of heat for technological purposes in large industrial plants, to their use in network heating.

Construction of nuclear power plants as the opportunity for the Polish economy.

The Polish Economic Institute (PIE) estimated that the construction of two nuclear power plants in Poland will cost PLN 184 billion. In its report “The economic aspects of nuclear investments in Poland – the impact on business, labour market and local communities“, the PIE argues that in 20 years, nuclear power will secure electricity supply in Poland at the level of 26 to 38% of the demand. [5]

The PIE analysts estimate that the involvement of Polish companies in the construction of the nuclear power plant, in a realistic scenario, may turn out to be from 50 to 70%, which is also mentioned by potential investors from the USA, France and South Korea.

The value of works performed by Polish companies is expected to be approximately PLN 130 billion, which should create from 26.4 thousand to  39.6 thousand new jobs. Those will be jobs not only in the field of construction but also related to the operation of the nuclear power plants over the 50-year operating cycle of the reactors.

The contractor for the Polish nuclear power plant is going to be selected soon

The latest positions of government representatives indicate that the final decision regarding the national nuclear programme is going to be made soon. The project to build a nuclear power plant in Poland is expected to be adopted by the government within the coming weeks (the schedule assumes the third quarter of this year).

So far, the willingness to sell the technology and build infrastructure has been expressed by:

France – in October 2021, the country presented an offer  from the EDF Group which indicated two to three locations for the construction of nuclear power plants in Poland
, with a declared total installed capacity of 6.6 to 9.9 GW,

South Korea – in April 2022,  the Polish government was presented an offer from the Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) concern that assummed the construction of 6 reactors with a total capacity of 8.4 GW,

United States – Westinghouse Electric Company and Bechtel were the last to present a proposal to the government for the construction of nuclear power plants (however, the details of the offer have not been disclosed by the time of the publication).

All the above-mentioned companies have extensive experience in the construction of nuclear reactors and the technologies proposed to Poland are successfully used worldwide:

  • four Westinghouse AP1000 units are operating in China and two other, located in the United States, are in the final stages of construction. China plan to build another four such units.
  • two Korean APR1400 units are currently in use in South Korea and one is used by the United Arab Emirates. A total of seven other units are currently under construction in those countries.
  • the French EPR (European Pressurized Reactor)  is a type of reactor that has been operating for several years in Taishan in China. The following power plants will be completed soon: Olkiluoto in Finland, a unit in Flamanville in France and Hinkley Point in the U.K.

In recent weeks, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki discussed the issue of Polish nuclear power plant with the Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris, the South Korean President, Yoon Suk-yeol, and the President of France, Emmanuel Macron. After a telephone conversation with the Vice President of the United States, the Prime Minister stressed that the government was analysing the possibilities in detail, both in terms of the construction of a large nuclear power plant and the development of the so-called  small modular reactors.

Earlier, on 30 August 2022,  Mateusz Morawiecki talked over the phone with the President of South Korea, Yoon Suk-yeol. The Chancellery of the Prime Minister announced that economic and military cooperation, energy security measures, including in the area of nuclear energy, were discussed, among other things.

Prime Minister Morawiecki pointed out that partnership with the Republic of Korea was an important element of national foreign policy. In recent months, Poland has closed a number of major deals with Korean partners. The Polish Armed Forces will be equipped with Korean combat aircraft and self-propelled artillery.

On 30 June 2022, the Minister of Climate and Environment, Anna Moskwa, concluded an agreement with the Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy of the Republic of Korea on energy cooperation in the field of, inter alia, peaceful use of nuclear energy, energy efficiency, hydrogen technologies, renewable energy, carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), carbon capture and utilisation (CCU), electromobility and smart grids.

The day before his conversation with the President of South Korea, Mateusz Morawiecki, during his visit to Paris, discussed cooperation in the nuclear energy sector with the President of France, Emmanuel Macron.

Such frequent direct talks between Prime Minister Morawiecki and the three representatives of the governments, who are negotiating the large contract, indicate that the ”winner of the battle” for the construction of a Polish nuclear power plant is going to be announced soon.

Obviously, the choice of such a strategic partner is not only a financial calculation but also a political and strategic issue. Each of the competitors is linked to Poland by economic ties, taking into account the EU structures, NATO or the arms industry. [6]

Strategic companies are not waiting for the government’s decision and are taking the initiative  with regard to small modular reactors (SMR).

A parallel path to nuclear energy in Poland may be Small Modular Reactors (SMR), which are smaller than the traditional large nuclear complexes. Such reactors are characterised by lower costs and shorter investment time, compared to the  large nuclear power plants. Individual elements are manufactured by the supplier of technology, as well as by using the so-called  “local content” – that is, companies located in the country where the investment is carried out. The components manufactured in this way are delivered, in the form of larger units, directly to the construction site. The use of modern safety systems, including passive ones, and simplifying the design of those units at the same time, allow for even safer operation and minimise the consequences of shutdown of a reactor, which may be associated with the lack of power supply to large groups of recipients. Thanks to the above-mentioned characteristics, the reactors can be built closer to human settlements, which makes it possible to use them – in addition to generating electricity – to produce heat for district heating systems and process heat for the needs of industrial recipients. Smaller size and modularity of the units, which enables easier expansion of the power plant by adding extra units, gives greater flexibility in terms of adapting the size of the entire park to the electricity and process heat demand of the investors. Moreover, the construction of many smaller units in different parts of the country may help to maintain a distributed energy generation system in Poland in the future.

KGHM Polska Miedź SA and PKN Orlen S.A.  support the SMR technology.  KGHM is the second largest consumer of electricity in Poland. The company’s annual demand is 3 TWh, which translates into an electricity bill of PLN 1 billion. The whole Orlen Group of Companies, which includes refineries in Płock and Gdańsk and the Anwil chemical company in Włocławek, is also a large consumer of electricity. Therefore, it is not surprising that both companies consider nuclear power as a way to make huge savings.

Based on the contracts already signed,  the company’s copper power plant will be powered by six SMR VOYGR reactors with a capacity of 462 MW, from the American company NuScale. Orlen will also use the American technology – BWRX-300, from GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy. [7] The first reactors for KGHM and PKN Orlen are to be commissioned by 2029.

Back to nuclear energy on the old continent

Due to the prospect of energy shortages in the winter season, the Europeans consider nuclear energy again. The way in which the demand for energy changes the perception may be demonstrated by the fact of reconsidering nuclear energy by the largest economies, as well as the positive change in the attitude of the citizens of the European Union. Nuclear technology, which until recently was in retreat, is now experiencing its renaissance and its benefits are noticeable against the background of, for example, reactivated coal-fired power plants.

Germany will keep two of its remaining three nuclear power plants, due to the turnaround in its energy policy, and will temporarily extend their operation beyond the assumed shutdown date, i.e.  31 December 2022 – announced Robert Habeck, the Minister of Economy of our western neighbour. [8] This move, expected in the EU, resulting from the failure of Russia to fulfil the contracts for the supply of energy carriers, means a shift in the policy of abandoning nuclear energy in favour of renewable energy (Energiewende), which has been developed for two decades. [9]

Prior to the energy crisis, in Germany, there was enormous public support for phasing out nuclear energy; however, according to the recent poll conducted by Forsa Institut, three-quarters of Germans support postponing the shutdown of nuclear power plants.

Over the decades, Germany’s western neighbours have become accustomed to using nuclear energy. Fissile material is currently used to generate 70% of electricity in France. Another reactor is under construction on the Seine, and six more are planned to be built. In 2019, the French government postponed the implementation of the plan, by 10 years, the original goal of which was to reduce the share of nuclear energy to 50% by 2025. At some point, France was the largest exporter of electricity in Europe and supplied a significant quantity of electricity to the U.K. and Italy. Currently, the neighbouring countries are closely observing the situation in France, which is facing an internal energy crisis due to the restrictions on the operation of reactors and it is likely to import more energy than export it this year. The situation is considered very serious by the French government and, at the end of July this year,  the National Assembly approved the nationalisation of the nuclear power company EDF.  [10]

In the former Eastern Bloc countries, which are now included in the EU structures, several nuclear power plants operate, which meet 15 to 50% of the electricity demand of the economies. In turn, Belgium and the Netherlands, which also use nuclear power plants, abandoned their plans to shut down nuclear reactors after Russia’s attack on Ukraine. In Sweden, six nuclear power plants meet 40% of the country’s electricity needs, while Finland is to launch the sixth reactor by the end of the year. At that time, 60% of the country’s electricity will come from nuclear sources. In Spain, seven nuclear power plants cover 22.2% of the country’s electricity demand. In the EU as a whole, 26% of electricity currently comes from nuclear power plants. [11]

What will we gain by using nuclear energy?

Rationally, the unstable prices of gas, coal and other fuels should direct us towards alternative sources of energy that guarantee independence and security. Currently, the structure of the energy mix in Poland is based on coal, which, despite its deposits in Poland, is largely imported for Polish power plants from outside the Community. On many occasions, when referring to Poland’s path towards energy independence, we have stressed the inevitability of achieving climate targets; i.e., the reduction of CO2, particulate matter and other factors that contribute to global warming.  The prices of CO2 emission allowances in the EU make the generation of energy from coal less profitable for energy companies, and the purchase of energy is associated with increasingly higher costs for energy-intensive businesses. It is not a ground-breaking statement that a nuclear power station, the construction of which has been planned in Poland for years, will be a fully-fledged alternative to coal and could also help to stabilise the system in the development of renewable energy sources.

According to Statistics Poland data, in 2021, as much as 11% of all expenditure incurred by households was on energy. [12] The years 2022-2023, are associated with a further nominal increase in bills. Most of the expenditure is heating costs in the autumn and winter season. Only the energy transition and diversification of the sources of electricity generation, implemented with great determination, give the prospect of eliminating the spectrum of energy poverty, which involves the poorest households to the greatest extent.

Based on the analysis conducted by WHO – contrary to popular beliefs – nuclear power is the safest source of energy, which is also confirmed by other scientific studies, including those carried out  for Statista in 2020.[13]

We appreciate that the government recognises the need for an urgent response and it is changing the regulations on the implementation of nuclear investments through fast-track legislation. On 16 August 2022, the Council of Ministers adopted a draft act amending the act on the preparation and implementation of investments in nuclear power facilities and associated investments and certain other acts, submitted by the Minister of Climate and Environment. The first reading of the draft took place on 14 September 2022,  during the meeting of the parliamentary committee for energy, climate and state assets (ESK). The document places great emphasis on the assessment of the environmental impact of power plants; however, the whole process of the construction of a power plant is expected to be faster due to formal simplifications. The investor will be able to contact the administrative bodies to obtain the necessary information in connection with the performance of tasks related to nuclear power facilities and associated investments. Moreover, once the commissioning permit is granted, it will be possible to temporarily operate a nuclear facility. [14] Looking to the future and considering the development plans of KGHM Polska Miedź S.A.  and PKN Orlen S.A. for modular reactor technologies, while creating the regulations for investment in nuclear facilities the need to adapt Polish law to the construction of smaller units, which may be built near, e.g., large industrial parks, should also be taken into account.

After decades of discussing alternative energy sources, Poland is still in ”the carboniferous period”. The Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers has emphasised many times that the development of distributed energy and nuclear energy in Poland should be accelerated as much as possible. At the time of the energy crisis in Europe, this acceleration should be absolute. For this to be possible, the introduction of a number of deregulated solutions is necesaary, which we systematically try to emphasise. Also, in our opinion, a public information campaign on this subject is required, which is why, among other things, we are the initiator of such projects as the “Energy for Europe” conference, which will be held in Brussels on 27 October 27 this year: https://zpp.net.pl/events/event/konferencja-energia-dla-europy-jednym-glosem-o-przyszlosci-europejskiej-energetyki/ The conference is one of many undertakings that fit into the long-term policy of ZPP of promoting low and zero carbon energy sources in Poland.

***

[1] https://www.cbos.pl/SPISKOM.POL/2006/K_108_06.PDF

[2] https://www.gov.pl/web/polski-atom/poparcie-spoleczne-dla-budowy-elektrowni-jadrowej-w-polsce—badania-z-listopada-2020-r-625-polakow-popiera-budowe-elektrowni-jadrowych-w-polsce

[3] Source: ARC Rynek i opinia, 3 August 2022. https://www.wirtualnemedia.pl/artykul/wiekszosc-polakow-popiera-budowe-krajowej-elektrowni-atomowej

[4] https://spidersweb.pl/2022/08/elektrownia-jadrowa-w-polsce-historia.html

[5] https://energia.rp.pl/atom/art36882581-energetyka-jadrowa-w-polsce

[6] https://www.wnp.pl/energetyka/wybor-atomowego-partnera-polski-jest-coraz-blizej,619112.html

[7] https://wszystkoconajwazniejsze.pl/pepites/jak-bedzie-dzialal-maly-reaktor-jadrowy-smr-kghm/

[8] https://www.wsj.com/articles/germany-to-delay-closure-of-two-nuclear-power-plants-as-energy-crisis-bites-11662400161

[9] https://businessinsider.com.pl/gospodarka/elektrownie-atomowe-w-niemczech-moga-dzialac-dluzej-niz-planowano/8j5q0l1

[10] https://www.dw.com/pl/francja-elektrownie-atomowe-na-granicy-przegrzania/a-62816418

[11] https://biznes.interia.pl/gospodarka/news-energia-jadrowa-w-ue-niemcy-sie-kloca-inni-stawiaja-na-atom,nId,6201434

[12] Sytuacja gospodarstw domowych w 2021 r. w świetle wyników badania budżetów gospodarstw domowych (The situation of households in 2021, on the basis of the results of the household budget study), Statistics Poland, 2021.

[13] Brook, Barry W., Alonso, Agustin i Meneley, Daniel A. Why nuclear energy is sustainable and has to be part

of the energy mix. Sustainable Materials and Technologies. 1-2, pp. 8-16, 2014.

[14] https://www.experto24.pl/aktualnosci/42117-nowe-przepisy-o-energetyce-jadrowej.html#.YxrrrHZBy3A

 

See: 19 September 2022 The memorandum of ZPP on the plans to build a nuclear power plant in Poland

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