Poland gets serious about HTGRs

17 May 2021

Poland’s National Centre for Nuclear Research (NCBJ) and the Ministry of Education and Science (MEiN) on 12 May signed a contract for the implementation of another batch of design works for the High Temperature Gas cooled Reactor (HTGR), according to the Polish government’s website. The event was attended by Minister of Education and Science Przemyslaw Czarnek, Minister of Climate and Environment Michal Kurtyka and NCBJ director Krzysztof Kurek.

Under the agreement, conditions for the construction of the HTGR will be prepared within three years at NCBJ, which will develop the basic design at an initial level of detail. For this purpose, MEiN will allocate PLN60.5 million ($16.2m) in agreement with the Ministry of Climate and Environment.

“The MARIA research reactor, which has been operating in Swierk (at NCBJ) for over 45 years, was the work of Polish scientists and engineers. I am glad that Polish scientists will be able to put forward their ideas again. We would like them to create a new quality - a design of a device needed for our economy and stimulating the development of science. Today we are giving them the funds they need to do so,” said Minister Czarnek.

He added that he had taken the decision to allocate PLN60 million up to 2024 for the technical description of an HTGR just four weeks after taking office, which, he hoped, would make it possible to deepen cooperation with Japanese partners. It provided an opportunity for a reactor to be built at NCBJ, which will allow Poland to produce hydrogen, a fuel of the future and so to take care of the climate and the environment at a global level, he said.

Climate and Environment Minister Kurtyka said the HTGR reactor is the first step towards the wide use of high-temperature rectors in the economy. “The Ministry of Climate and Environment supports all initiatives that may contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere. Nuclear energy is a tool that will meet the needs of a modern economy and industry without harming the environment. HTGR technology, subject to its industrial commercialisation, may be such a tool in the future.”

NCBJ Director Kurek explained that the necessary laboratory facilities will first have to be created at NCBJ, primarily for testing materials used in the technology of high-temperature reactors. “Materials for this type of device need to work in extreme conditions, high temperatures, exposed to neutron radiation and high pressure. As part of the contract, we will also perform the necessary technical analyses, simulations and safety analyses required before applying for a licence to build a nuclear facility.”

He added: "This type of a reactor is currently operating for research purposes in Japan. In cooperation with the Japanese side, we want to adapt this kind of reactor for the needs of Swierk." Kurek pointed out that that the reactor would not only serve research purposes at the institute, but would also be a technology demonstrator, and he added that, in his opinion, nuclear technology was the future of Poland.

The government website noted that construction of a HTGR “is a great opportunity for Polish science and economy, which can bring additional benefits: development of competences and international competitiveness of Polish research teams, development of Polish research specialties or contribution to Polish energy mix significantly contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions”. 

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