Poland’s government has formally adopted a resolution on the implementation of its nuclear project “using a proven and safe technology in cooperation with the American company Westinghouse Nuclear”, according to the Chancellery of the Prime Minister. The decision to use Westinghouse AP1000 technology been announced earlier, on 28 October. Both France’s EDF and South Korean state-run company Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) had also submitted bids for the contract.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told a press conference that the Westinghouse technology “is the most advanced and has the best protection against possible threats”. He added: “We do not want to base our energy policy on hydrocarbons from Russia, but we also do not want to base it on expensive hydrocarbons from all over the world. We want to base it on renewable sources and nuclear energy. A serious state must invest in new technologies,” he emphasised. He added that the government also supports smaller nuclear power projects such as SMRs and MMRs.
Poland’s nuclear plans, announced in 2021, envisage six large pressurised water reactors with a combined installed capacity of 6-9GWe to be built by 2040. Under the plan, construction of the first three-unit NPP is expected to start in 2026, with the first 1-1.6GWe reactor being commissioned in 2033 followed by subsequent units every 2-3 years. The coastal towns of Lubiatowo and Kopalino in the Choczewo municipality have been selected as the preferred location for the first plant. A second three-unit plant is also envisaged and the US assumes that Westinghouse will supply reactors for both plants. "We understand that the decision will be for the first three reactors and it is our expectation that Poland intends to eventually construct six AP1000 reactors from Westinghouse and will make a formal decision about the second set of three at a later date," an unnamed US official said.
Morawiecki stressed, however, that the government is also open to a second nuclear project involving private entities (ZE PAK), companies with a State Treasury share (Polska Grupa Energetyczna PGE) and KHNP. While the official strategy assumes building six reactors in two locations by the mid-2040s, Morawiecki said a third location was not out of the question.
On 31 October The Polish Ministry of State Assets, the Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, ZE PAK, PGE and KHNP signed a letter of intent for development of a NPP at ZE PAK’s Patnów site using Korean APR1400 technology. This was followed by a memorandum of understanding (MOU), signed by the ministries, to spare no effort to provide support for the Patnów project.
Earlier, competition between Westinghouse and KHNP for the main contract had become contentious. KHNP had reportedly offered to build six APR1400 reactors with a capacity of 8.4GWe for $26.7 billion. The Westinghouse offer was $31.3 billion for six AP1000 reactors with a total capacity of 6.7GWe, while EDF’s bid for its EPR technology was for $33-48.5 billion for four to six reactors. Polish media reported that KHNP had also proposed post-construction technology transfer to Poland and media speculation was that the contract would go to KHNP.
This prompted Westinghouse on 21 October to file a lawsuit against KHNP and Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) in a US federal court to block them from selling reactors to Poland. Westinghouse said KHNP’s reactor design included intellectual property licensed by Westinghouse and required permission from Westinghouse before being transferred to Poland or any other countries considering deploying the APR1400 reactor. However, KHNP said it had gained competence in the design, production and construction of NPPs in order to finally develop its own, independent technology. "Korean nuclear technology is independent of Westinghouse technology and can be exported without restrictions and without the consent of the US," it noted.
The decision to choose Westinghouse for the main contract is generally seen by Polish media as a political decision affirming Poland’s increasingly close ties to Washington. "US partnership on this project is advantageous for us all: we can address the climate crisis, strengthen European energy security, and deepen the US-Poland strategic relationship," US Vice President Kamala Harris said in a tweet.
Harris had worked to help Westinghouse to secure the contract together with Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, engaging with Morawiecki several time over the past year, a White House official said. The selection of Westinghouse and of the USA sent a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin "about the strength and the meshing together of a US-Poland alliance," another senior US government official was cited as saying.
US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said the project would create or sustain more than 100,000 jobs for American workers. “This is a huge step in strengthening our relationship with Poland to create energy security for future generations to come,” she noted. “This announcement also sends a clear message to Russia: We will not let them weaponise energy any longer.”
“The choice of the US technology is not surprising as the recently published environmental report for the Kopalino-Lubiatowo site was entirely based on the parameters of the AP1000 Westinghouse reactor technology,” said Adam Blazowski from Fota4Climate, a pro-nuclear climate and environmental foundation.
But economics also matters, hence the parallel project with KHNP. Poland’s Deputy Prime Minister Jacek Sasin, who was in Seoul to sign the MOU with South Korea, along with KHNP, PGE and ZE PAK told Polish Radio: “We are going to build two nuclear power plants at the same time, one under the government programme and the other in a business-led programme.”
According to the Letter of Intent (LOI), the parties aim to jointly prepare a plan to develop the NPP based on Korea's APR1400 technology. In particular, the parties intend to perform preliminary analysis of geotechnical, seismic and environmental conditions, develop an estimated budget for the preparatory work, construction phase and production phase along with the proposed project financing model, as well as create a variant project implementation schedule along with the definition of key stages affecting the potential project implementation. They intend to prepare a preliminary development plan by the end of 2022.
Sasin noted: The initiative of ZE PAK and PGE is extremely interesting because it fulfils the strategic goals of Poland and Poles - cheap energy and energy independence. According to Poland's Energy Policy until 2040 adopted by Polish government in 2021, Patnów is one of the potential locations for a nuclear power plant in Poland... We welcome the information that ZE PAK and PGE have entered into talks with KHNP, which will further strengthen relations between Poland and South Korea.
Chang-Yang Lee, Korean Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy said Korea, “the project has reopened the gate for NPP exports after 13 years since the export to the UAE in 2009 while it validates the excellence of the APR1400. Also, once the final contract is made, we anticipate that it will greatly contribute to revitalising the domestic nuclear industry… “The conclusion of the MOU and the LOI between the companies has laid the foundation for strengthened cooperation with Poland that leads to a mutual benefit and win-win situation." KHNP President & CEO Dr Jooho Whang said the request for cooperation by ZE PAK reaffirms Korea's competitiveness. “I strongly believe that potential cooperation between Poland and Korea will play a significant role in further solidifying the strong partnership between our two countries," he added.
"Our goal is to provide Poles with cheap and clean energy. There is no doubt that nuclear power is a source of that, said Zygmunt Solorz, Chairman of the ZE PAK Supervisory Board. “Our Patnów location seems to be ideal for the implementation of a nuclear energy project, hence our idea to create a development plan for such a project… We have the necessary infrastructure, experience and passion of our power engineers in the region for new challenges. We are an energy company in transformation that is gradually moving away from lignite-based energy production and developing zero-emission energy sources. We have fantastic and experienced people in the energy industry, whom we want to provide the opportunity to continue working in the region. Investing in nuclear power is an opportunity for Poland, for the region, and most of all for Poles….It is also a development impulse for a number of potential Polish suppliers, work for thousands of people and the transfer of highly advanced technologies and knowledge. It is also a powerful investment in the Polish economy and significant tax revenues for the country and the region. "
Wojciech Dabrowski, President of the Management Board at PGE, said: “As the largest energy company in Poland, we are leading the domestic energy transition. We already supply electricity to nearly 6 million customers throughout Poland. Our distribution area covers almost 40% of Poland's area... We are the leader in green energy in Poland.
Poland’s Biznes Alert pointed out that both the Westinghouse and KHNP plans could face administrative, investment and even political complications, noting that “time will show who will build the first reactor”.
Image: Signing of a letter of intent for development of a NPP at ZE PAK’s Patnów site