US based GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) announced on 21 October that it had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Polish chemical company Synthos to collaborate on potential deployment applications for GEH’s BWRX-300 small modular reactor (SMR) in Poland. Synthos is interested in obtaining affordable, on-demand, carbon-free electricity from a dependable, dedicated source. GEH said. “The BWRX-300 is a breakthrough innovation for the industry where cost has become a significant barrier,” said Jon Ball, Executive Vice President of Nuclear Plant Projects for GEH. “Through our design-to-cost approach, we are designing the BWRX-300 to be cost competitive with gas, renewables and other forms of power generation. We applaud Synthos for its interest in small modular reactor technology and advocacy of clean-energy options for Poland.”
Michal Solowow, owner of Synthos, part of the largest private industrial group in Poland, said: “Small modular reactors can play a significant role in addressing Poland’s energy challenges, the modernisation of the nation’s energy sector and in achieving necessary and responsible deep decarbonisation. Utilising small modular reactors to generate clean energy will improve our chances to move away from coal and have a positive impact on our industry and nation.”
The BWRX-300, a 300 MWe water-cooled, natural circulation SMR with passive safety systems, is based on the design and licensing basis of GEH’s US NRC-certified ESBWR. As a result of design simplification, GEH projects the BWRX-300 will require up to 60% less capital cost per MWe compared with other water-cooled SMR designs or large nuclear reactor designs. GEH believes that the BWRX-300 can become cost-competitive with power generation from combined cycle gas plants and renewable energy platforms. The BWRX-300 is the tenth evolution of GE’s first boiling water reactor (BWR) design since GE began commercialising nuclear reactors in 1955. In May, GEH initiated a vendor design review by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission for its BWRX-300 design.
Poland, which is facing pressure from the European Union to cut carbon emissions, plans to build its first traditional nuclear power plant over the next 20 years but is facing problems over finance for the project. In June Poland led a number of eastern EU states in blocking a push by France and most others to commit the bloc to net zero emissions by mid-century. "It is not so easy to switch onto renewable energy sources and nuclear energy is an alternative which might be used," Poland's Finance Minister Jerzy Kwiecinski told public radio on 22 October.
Poland’s Ministry of Energy in November released a draft energy policy document for public consultation. The document envisages 6-9 GWe of nuclear capacity in operation by 2043, accounting for about 10% of Poland's electricity generation. Siting for the first plant would be decided in 2020, and selection of the technology and general contractor would take place in 2021. The first plant (1-1.5 GWe) would be completed by 2033, with up to six reactors, with a combined capacity of 6-9 GWe in operation by 2043.