Warsaw, 21st August 2020
Position of the Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers on the Polish nuclear power programme
Nuclear energy is considered to be a promising branch of the entire global energy sector. Changing technological solutions constitute in this regard an important issue. Some of the Western European economies have recently departed from PWR (pressurised water reactor) devices, some of them have focused on researching other types of reactors (such as ITER – International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor) designed for nuclear energy of new quality. It can be expected that these efforts of many countries will bear fruit within 10-15 years. PWR reactors on the other hand are a good, proven and failure-free technology that is constantly being modernised and adapted to the increasingly demanding safety conditions.
In Poland, the decision to invest in this type of energy source must be considered on many levels. This decision is of political, substantive, economic and social character.
First of all, it is difficult nowadays to imagine any social or political acceptance for a capital investor or a technology supplier from China or Russia, that is countries specialising in PWR technologies. Presently, everything indicates that it will be the United States to invest in the Polish nuclear energy programme. The only unknown variables are time and cost. It is worth mentioning that there are numerous examples of agreed upon budgets being exceeded by several dozen percent, as well as up to several years of construction delays. This does not mean, however, that these instances necessarily have to repeat themselves in the case of Polish investments.
Investing in nuclear energy in Poland is a political decision, closely related to the broadly understood national security, including that of military nature. We would be joining the group of countries with extended nuclear capabilities. Such an investment must be adequately protected.
The programme presented by the Ministry of Climate focuses to a larger extent on substantive and economic aspects, merely mentioning the political dominion of decision. The Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers, however, views its political aspect as the chief motive when making such a decision. One may notice this, among other things, in in the financing model of this power plant as proposed by the Ministry of Climate, which seems to be adapted to the possibilities and conditions of the American partner.
If the security of our country increases significantly as a result of the construction of a nuclear power plant, such a decision ought to be made.
Of course, the economic conditions of such a decision are also highly important, henceforth the need for tough negotiations with the future co-investor.
It seems that following the arguments presented above, the direction of investment becomes obvious, especially since it should not be difficult to explain the reasons for such a decision to both the public and European stakeholders. In our view, a positive decision to invest in nuclear energy should be taken at the highest level and be preceded by an explanation stage dedicated to the public. Additionally, in accordance with the requirements of the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community, this decision will be subject to approval by the European Commission and this issue should be taken into account in the to be undertaken.
A negative investment decision must also be based on solid foundations, the more so as the programme has already cost taxpayers more than PLN 500 million.
It seems that there is neither basis nor even the possibility of completely decommissioning coal-fired power plants in Poland by 2045. By reducing the share of coal to 50% by 2030 and to 30% in the energy mix by 2035, we will probably obtain the approval of the European Commission for a form of transformation that will assume the complete liquidation of coal-based energy by 2050. The development of renewable and gas energy over the years will fully meet the country’s energy needs in terms of electricity and heat (based on gas and electricity). At present, the country’s total highest demand amounts to approximately 28,000 megawatts. However, a political problem may arise in the form of the question as to how should we satisfy the fuel needs of a wide park of gas generating units – in Polish economic conditions there is a risk of the need to establish trade relations in this respect with the Russian side, which may raise concerns about the influence of Gazprom on Poland’s energy security.
Considering the level of the country’s energy security, the development of distributed energy seems to be optimal. We will leave the guarantee of the system operation to modern supercritical coal-fired units, gradually replaced by gas units. At the same time, over the period of 20 years, we will ensure a peaceful and harmonious transformation process for the mining industry, avoiding unnecessary social tensions.
To sum up, we are not opposed to the construction of a Polish nuclear power plant, but the criteria for such an investment must be broader than those presented in the proposed document. The programme should be properly presented to the public. When choosing a technology, the target power of the installation should be taken into account. At the same time, in the future, further development of the programme based on other nuclear installations should be considered. Nuclear energy should also be included in Poland’s new energy mix.
It is necessary to precisely (using a timeline) plan for subsidising nuclear energy together with a system of cooperation between nuclear energy and other sources, with particular emphasis on distributed energy.
The political sensitivity of this subject requires extremely prudent diplomatic actions, covering not only diplomacy itself, but also business and science, allowing for certain compromises in the name of generally understood superior values. This will apply in particular to our European partners.
Also, the decision to abandon the Polish nuclear energy programme should be very precisely motivated and based on hard data from the same areas as in the case of a positive decision.
As part of this position of the Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers, we enclose a set of comments to individual provisions of the drafted document.
Fot. Frédéric Paulussen / Unsplash.com