Poland’s Ministry of Education & Science has signed a letter of intent with state oil and gas company PK Orlen and six universities for the training of nuclear engineers. The universities include the AGH University of Science & Technology Stanislaw Staszic in Krakow, Gdansk University of Technology, Poznan University of Technology, Silesian University of Technology, Warsaw University of Technology, and Wroclaw University of Technology. New training courses for nuclear specialists are to be established at these universities. Anna Moskwa, Minister of Climate & Environment also gave her support to the initiative, as did the European Commission’s newly established Copernicus Academy.
Minister of Education & Science Przemyslaw Czarnek noted that talks about the need to launch and restore training in nuclear energy had been going on for some time. “New directions must be created, specialties must be revived, but also new directions of scientific research…. The world of science must follow business, must support business, must support entrepreneurship, must support the economy.”
PKN President Orlen Daniel Obajtek said that energy transformation in Poland requires not only investment, but also well-educated staff. He stressed plans to establish the first small modular reactor (SMR) in Poland by 2028. “This is the time to act. We have an ambitious plan for 2038 for 76 SMRs at 26 locations." He added: “It will be the largest energy investment in Poland, but also in Europe. It will require tens of billions of euros.” The location for the reactors will be announced in the first half of this year. “We are already working on locations, we are investigating these locations,” he said. "We can't just think about assets, but we also need to think about human capital. That is why Orlen's cooperation with universities is important.”
He continued: “We must rely on Polish universities that have experience. Some of them can reactivate this experience, some have to build it again, but we have time for this.” He emphasised the need to create an energy mix that would ensure Poland's security. “I often see mistakes made in the past - research was undertaken but ended at the university and did not go further. And we must fix these mistakes. Science must serve business, and business must serve science.
"Small nuclear reactors are a technology that we decided to develop due to its energy efficiency and role in the process of achieving the company's emission neutrality by 2050,” he noted. “As a zero-emission source, SMR reactors will complement the portfolio of the most modern generation capacity of the Orlen Group. The development of specialised staff for this new energy sector is an important step in strengthening the Polish economy and national energy security."
Dawid Jackiewicz, a Board member of ORLEN Synthos Green Energy, said: “The nuclear industry is a new, very promising branch of the economy. Given that one reactor will need over 100 highly qualified specialists, by 2040 we will need over 2,500 specialists….
We are preparing to open the PG Nuclear Energy Centre." He added that the new agreement opens the way to reh revival of nuclear power. “It's about about developing a training programme and organising first and second cycle studies from the 2023/2024 academic year.” Chermical company Synthos Green and PKN Orlen earlier formed the joint venture Orlen Synthos Green Energy to build a fleet of GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s BWRX-300 SMRs in Poland, the first is planned to be launched by 2030.
Professor Janusz Wojtkowiak from the Poznan University of Technology said each of the six universities is fully aware that the staff will need to be rebuilt. “People were active in the past, I mean during the first nuclear energy programme, but many years have passed. Some staff remained from the second [nuclear programme], which began in 2009 and ended in 2014. But every university sees the need to invest in its staff, support lecturers from abroad.”
Poland has become a focus for SMR developers. In addition to Orlen Synthos Green Energy’s project, EDF has signed an agreement with Poland’s Respect Energy to develop projects based on the Nuward SMR technology. Copper and silver producer KGHM Polska Miedz is investigating possible development of NuScale's VOYGR SMR.
Image: Poland's government has teamed up with PKN Orlen and the country's main universities of technology to launch a new degree programme in nuclear engineering (courtesy of PAP/Tomasz Gzell)