US-based Last Energy, which is developing a small modular nuclear reactor (SMR), and Poland’s Enea Group have signed a letter of intent to jointly pursue the development of Last Energy’s 20MWe SMRs in Poland. Enea president Pawel Majewski noted at the signing ceremony that “modular nuclear energy, as a safe, scalable and controllable energy source, may be an important pillar of energy security”, adding that SMRs "are the way to achieve zero emissions for our company”.
Polish Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Assets Jacek Sasin said small nuclear reactors “are the future and an alternative to nuclear energy as we know it”. He added: “I am glad that Enea is another company pursuing this path, joining Orlen and KGHM, and perhaps other companies will follow this path in the future.” Polish companies KGHM and Tauron in April signed a letter of intent for cooperation in the construction of low-emission energy sources, including the use of SMRs. In 2021 PKN Orlen signed a cooperation agreement with chemicals company Synthos on small nuclear projects,
Last Energy CEO Bret Kugelmass said: “Scaling small modular nuclear power isn’t 10 years away….The technology is proven and ready, now. We are proud to bring our innovative delivery model together with Enea’s deep utilities expertise to usher in a new era of energy independence for Poland.”
He told PAP that the company’s small 20MWe reactor was based on standard technology. "Unlike other companies, we did not focus on the core design, but on the production of individual parts, modularity, improving manufacturing techniques," he explained. “We used standard elements of PWR technology - pressurised water reactors. Parts such as rods and fuel cassettes are the same as in the large reactors: 3.6 metres high, 17 by 17 rods in the cassette.”
He said the reduced number of fuel elements lowers the power output. “This made it possible to reduce other elements such as pumps and steam generators. All of this is smaller and therefore easier to manufacture. The small size allows you to maximise the participation of the local supply chain.”
Kugelmass said he believed the first Last Energy reactor may operate in 2-3 years. As he explained, thanks to the management model and the parallel conduct of a number of processes - environmental procedures, dialogue with the nuclear supervision authority, chain construction, the company is able to shorten the construction from 5-10 years typical for a large reactor to 2-3 years.
“We have access to private capital from the market, including infrastructure banks, which have special financial instruments that allow us to obtain capital with a long return period,” he noted.
“This is a historic moment. We are showing that in practice we are building Poland's long-term energy security,” said Sasin. “We want nuclear energy –traditional, large and state-built energy, as well as the micro-dimension – to be our future. Congratulations to Enea on finding a good and reliable partner who will help and guide them. This is the time that will decide whether we will win this race and Poland will retain its energy security.”
Enea, a majority state-owned company is one of the largest energy companies in Poland. Its agreement with Last Energy is aligned with Enea’s Development Strategy, which provides for the creation of new business lines and aims for carbon neutrality by 2050.
Last Energy is also in talks with governments, regulators and commercial energy partners across Europe, Latin America and Asia. In March of this year, Romanian Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca announced plans to work with Last Energy to develop its SMR at the Mioveni site in that country.
Image: Last Energy and Enea have signed a letter of intent for SMRs in Poland to support energy security (photo courtesy of Last Energy)