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Nordic Nuclear Day 2 – Poland’s 1st Nuclear Plant Gets Planning Strong Support from the Nordics

The Nordics have found an important new business idea to help a non-Nordic neighboring country, Poland, in establishing a fossil fuel free way to expand electricity production with a modular designed big nuclear plant from the American contractor Westinghouse.

Although Poland is not a Nordic country, it does back onto the Baltic Sea, and there has always been many fruitful business and cultural links between them and us. One of the black spots in the Polish economy that has been a point of Nordic disquiet, has been their strong dependence on using greenhouse gas-emitting coal for electricity production.

As early as 2005, the Polish cabinet decided that for energy diversification, and to reduce carbon dioxide and sulfur emissions, the country should move to introduce nuclear power. They originally planned to have a nuclear plant operating in 2020, but wishful thinking is a political characteristic everywhere. You only have to recall TVO’s latest nuclear plant that was delivered by EDF some 15 years later than agreed, and the Fennovoima failed project that was clearly a dead duck from the start!

More detailed and constructive planning and consultations in Poland have lasted right up to the present day that was coordinated by a newly created Polskie Elektrownie Jadrowe (PEJ), a special purpose vehicle 100% owned by the State Treasury.

In 2021 EDF offered to build up to six 1650 MWe EPR units. In April 2022 Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) submitted an equivalent offer to build six of its 1345 MWe APR1400 units, stating the first reactor could be in operation by 2033. In September 2022 Westinghouse submitted an offer to build six large-scale reactors in the country.

At the end of 2022, the government announced that Westinghouse had been chosen to build the country’s first nuclear plant in the Pomerania province, with a location near the Baltic Sea. An additional agreement laying out the next steps – including site layout, licensing and permitting support, engineering services contracts and procurement and construction planning services – was signed between Westinghouse and PEJ in December 2022.

The expectation is to have an operational plant from Westinghouse and Bechtel in the early 2030s using AP1000 technology in the construction of the plant.

Thus on Day 2 of the Nordic Nuclear Forum24, Mr. Philip Bordarier, Chief Nuclear Officer at PEJ, gave a fine presentation on the current planning stages of this project. 

The site has been chosen, Lublatowo Kopalino, which, as you can see from the map below, it is right on the Baltic Sea coast line on the northern edge of the country some 500km from Warsaw. 

The choice of Westinghouse must reflect the security needs of Poland given that they have a long border with Ukraine, and Kaliningrad, a naval nuclear conclave, is just 450 kilometers to the east.  

According to Westinghouse, the AP1000 is a Generation III+ reactor with fully passive safety systems, modular construction design, and the smallest footprint per MWe on the market. In the U.S., at the Vogtle site in Georgia, one AP1000 unit is producing power for the grid while a second unit has recently started completed commercial operations. Four AP1000 reactors are currently setting operational performance and availability records in China, with six additional reactors under construction there. Earlier this year, Bulgaria selected the AP1000 technology for its new reactor program and the technology is under consideration at multiple other sites in Central and Eastern Europe, the United Kingdom, and in North America. 

The most interesting comments from Mr. Philip Bordarier that are relevant for this article, is that Fortum and TVO have been linked to this project to provide valuable project management advice on the development of Poland’s first nuclear plant project. 

He was also at pains to point out that the timetable may possibly be delayed because of project complexity, but also because they lack the required number of skilled workers for such a massive project. Training new recruits and keeping them on site is especially demanding when many other new similar nuclear projects are being constructed in other parts of the world.

He also mentioned that they are trying hard to establish a locally-based supply chains for equipment and skilled workers.

This project is an excellent example of what can be done when the Nordics and our neighbours proactively seek out new ways of working together. It is an innovative solution to seek out new business opportunities, rather than complaining about a third country’s lack of efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions.

Photo: Westinghouse Rendering of AP1000® for Poland

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