Poland signs contract for design of first NPP

2 October 2023

Polish utility Polskie Elektrownie Jadrowe (PEJ) has signed the Engineering Services Contract (ESC) with US-based companies Westinghouse and Bechtel for the design of Poland's first NPP. The contract scope includes finalising a site-specific design for three Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear islands; turbine Island and balance of plant design work; and support for PEJ to prepare licence application materials, training programmes, and operations and maintenance procedures. The work outlined in the 18-month contract will begin immediately.

The main purpose is to define the requirements and design/engineering criteria as well as specify norms and standards in accordance with which the project will be executed. PEJ said the engineering work at this stage will result in more than 400 final deliverables and that some 2m man-hours and the support of the industry's top professionals will be involved.

In December 2021, PEJ (which is wholly state treasury owned) selected the site of the plant near Lubiatowo-Kopalino in the coastal province of Pomerania. Construction is planned to start in 2026 with first reactor scheduled to be operational in 2033. The estimated cost of the investment is more than PLN100bn ($22.74bn). In November 2022, the government announced the first plant, with a capacity of 3750 MWe, would be built in Pomerania using Westinghouse AP1000 technology. An agreement outlining a plan for delivery of the plant was signed in May by Westinghouse, Bechtel and PEJ.

The ESC contract signing was witnessed by Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, Government Plenipotentiary for Strategic Energy Infrastructure Anna Lukaszewska-Trzeciakowska and US Ambassador to Poland Mark Brzezinski. Also present were President of Bechtel’s Nuclear, Security & Environmental global business unit John Howanitz; Westinghouse President & CEO Patrick Fragman; US Assistant Secretary of Energy for International Affairs Andrew Light; and President of the Management Board of PEJ Mateusz Berger.

A week earlier Westinghouse and Bechtel had formed a consortium for the design and construction of the plant. Two days later, PEJ received a decision from the General Director for Environmental Protection (GDOS - Generalnej Dyrekcji Ochrony Srodowiska) on the environmental conditions for plant construction. PEJ had submitted the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report for the first plant to GDOS in March 2022 and in August 2023 applied to the Pomeranian Voivode (Governor), Dariusz Drelich, for a siting decision. The decision was issued in Spetmber confirming the Pomeranian commune of Choczewo as the site.

In July, the Minister of Climate & Environment issued a fundamental decision formally confirming that investment the NPP is in the public interest and in line with state energy policy. This enabled PEJ to apply for further administrative decisions. PEJ had earlier received a positive opinion on safety of the project from the National Atomic Energy Authority.

The provisions of the ESC regulate cooperation on processes for obtaining further permits, including the development of the technical specification of the preliminary design to ensure it complies with the required performance parameters. It will also be the basis for a further contract covering the next phase of construction.

The contract also provides support for the investment process and its adaptation to applicable legal regulations in cooperation with the National Atomic Energy Authority and the Office of Technical Inspection. In addition, the contract will assess the proposed solutions in the field of radiological protection and safety analyses in accordance with the requirements of the Atomic Law Act.

As part of the contract, it is planned to involve Polish industry and develop a supply chain to maximise local participation, including contractors from the Pomeranian region, while guaranteeing efficient and safe implementation of the investment. The agreement also provides for trips to the USA for Polish employees to improve key competences in the design and safe operation of the latest generation of reactors. Selected engineers will gain experience through direct cooperation with both Westinghouse and Bechtel. PEJ said this is “particularly important from the perspective of both the investor and the government”.

Anna Lukaszewska-Trzeciakowska, Government Plenipotentiary for Strategic Energy Infrastructure said “the establishment of a nuclear culture in Poland means new opportunities for the whole country, and we want to introduce the best models”.

Mateusz Berger, President of the PEJ Management Board, commented: “We are entering a watershed moment not only for our investment project, but also for the entire energy transition process in Poland. Today's event concludes the planning stage of the nuclear power plant and commences the execution phase with relevant engineering work. In about 1.5 years, the signed contract will result in the design/engineering documentation of the first nuclear power plant to be built in Pomerania.” He added: “This moment is the culmination of very intensive work by many people from the Polish and US government administrations, as well as employees of PEJ, Westinghouse and Bechtel.”

According to US Ambassador to Poland Mark Brzezinski: “This is not just a commercial venture. Our hope is to support Poland as it becomes a hub for civil nuclear technology deployment. Energy security is national security, and America’s security is interdependent with Poland’s security.”

Andrew Light, Assistant Secretary of Energy for International Affairs at the US Department of Energy (DOE) described the Polish NPP project as “our biggest milestone yet for US-Poland civil nuclear cooperation, years in the making” He added: “This collaboration will stretch out for multiple decades, and prove to be a cornerstone of our enduring strategic and commercial partnership.”

Westinghouse President & CEO Patrick Fragman said this is a transformational moment for Poland, Westinghouse and its partners. “The breadth of the work we are performing here, as we create the foundations of a nuclear energy programme where none existed before, will be a model for other countries that seek decarbonisation and energy security through safe, reliable nuclear energy. Bechtel President & CEO Craig Albert said Poland’s first NPP “is a historic project, vital to the country’s energy security and energy transition goals”.

Westinghouse (technology supplier) and Bechtel (construction company) already have experience in cooperation – they work together in the construction of nuclear units at the US Vogtle power plant in the state of Georgia. The first unit with the AP1000 reactor has already been connected to the network. PEJ noted that the Polish NPP will be "based on the latest experience of Westinghouse and Bechtel, resulting in particular from the construction of Vogtle unit 4, which introduced improvements over the previously commissioned unit 3".

Currently, the AP1000 is not licensed or operating anywhere in Europe. Earlier this year, Bulgaria selected the AP1000 technology for its new reactor programme and the technology is under consideration in the Czech Republic and Ukraine.

In the USA one AP1000 reactor is operating at the Vogle NPP (unit 3) and unit 4 is undergoing commissioning. Both are significantly delayed and over budget. The two units were originally expected to enter service in 2016 and 2017 but suffered a series of delays, including Westinghouse’s bankruptcy in 2017.

Four Westinghouse AP1000 units are in operation in China – two each at the Sanmen and Haiyang NPPs. Two CAP1000 units, the Chinese version of the AP1000, are being built by China as the second phase of each station. The proposed construction of four CAP1000 reactors (units 1-4) at China’s Lufeng NPP was approved by the National Development & Reform Commission but has not yet received State Council approval.

Poland has begun an informal consultation process for support from the European Commission (EC) for its first NPP. Deputy Minister Gibourge-Czetwertynski said the EC had expressed an understanding of the importance of the nuclear project for transformation and for achieving EU climate goals. The President of Poland’s PSE transmission network operator, Tomasz Sikorski, has said he expects the Polish Power Networks to issue the first conditions for connecting a NPP to the network in October.

Image: The Polish government has signed a contract with US firms Westinghouse and Bechtel for the design of Poland's first NPP in the presence of Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki (top row, second from left) and US Ambassador to Poland Mark Brzezinski (top row, second from right)

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