Poland's Ministry of Climate & Environment has issued a decision-in-principle for a second large NPP. Two South Korean-supplied APR1400 reactors are planned in the Patnów-Konin region of Wielkopolska province in central Poland. A positive decision by the Ministry of Culture & Higher Education makes it possible to start work at the site and confirms the compliance of the planned investment with the objectives of Poland's energy policy. According to the plan, the two reactors with a total installed capacity of 2,800 MWe will provide 22 TWh of energy annually, which corresponds to 12% of current electricity demand in Poland.

The decision-in-principle is the first step in the process of administrative permits required for investments in nuclear power facilities in Poland. It entitles ZE PAK and PGE to apply for a number of further administrative arrangements, such as a siting decision or construction licence.

PGE PAK Energia Jadrowa (PPEJ) submitted its application to the Ministry in June. PPEJ is a joint special purpose vehicle set up by Polish public company ZE PAK (Zespól Elektrowni Patnów-Adam-Konin) and Polska Grupa Energetyczna (PGE) – both Treasury owned – to implement the project to construct the NPP in Patnów. The plant will comprise two reactors supplied by Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP). PPEJ was established just five months after the letter of intent was signed in Seoul in October 2022 between PGE, ZE PAK and KHNP. PGE and ZE PAK will each own 50% of the shares in PPEJ, which secures the interest of the Polish Treasury in the project.

Jacek Sasin, Poland’s Minister of State Assets said energy security is the basis for the functioning of the state, and in view of the challenges related to energy transformation, only nuclear power can provide a stable basis in the coming years to ensure access to cheap and clean energy and support economic development. “The implementation of the project that PGE PAK Energia Nuclear wants to implement together with the Korean side in Pątnów fits perfectly into the plans that the government has in this respect,” he noted. “The issue of a fundamental decision for this draft confirms this. So I hope that the further implementation of this project will not stop or prevent anything.”

Wojciech Dąbrowski, President of the PGE Management Board said the basic decision “is crucial for the construction of a nuclear power plant and allows us to move on to the next stages of the investment”. He added: “We received it less than 13 months after signing the letter of intent. In the case of such a large investment, this is a very good result. It is also proof of the commitment and good cooperation of all partners in the project and confirmation that the ambitious plan to launch the first unit by 2035 is very realistic. The power plant will provide consumers with cheap and clean energy, and Poland, along with renewable energy sources, with energy security and independence.”

This project is developing in parallel with Poland’s official nuclear power programme. Poland has ambitious nuclear power development plans. In September 2021, it was announced that six large pressurised water reactors with a combined installed capacity of 6-9 GWe could be built by 2040 to reduce its reliance on coal. Construction of the first 1.0-1.6 GWe plant was expected to start in 2026 for commissioning in 2033. Subsequent units will be implemented every 2-3 years. In November 2022, the government announced the first plant, with a capacity of 3,750 MWe, would be built in Pomerania using US Westinghouse AP1000 technology. An agreement outlining a plan for delivery of the plant was signed in May by Westinghouse, Bechtel and state-owned Polish utility Polskie Elektrownie Jadrowe (PEJ).

In April, PEJ had applied to the Ministry of Climate & Environment for a similar decision for the Westinghouse project and in July the Ministry issued a fundamental decision approving the plan. It formally confirmed that investment in Poland’s first NPP is in the public interest and in line with state energy policy.

PPEJ President Jakub Rybicki said in August that he expected the Patnów project to begin operation in 2035. “We are starting negotiations with our Korean partner regarding the feasibility study, agreements on financing our project and the creation of a Polish-Korean company that will directly lead this process,” he noted.

However, currently KHNP is facing a lawsuit filed by Westinghouse in October 2022 alleging intellectual property infringement. Westinghouse insists that KHNP’s APR1400 nuclear reactor is based on Westinghouse technology. KHNP contests this. “After launching its own nuclear programme, Korea gradually built up technology, carrying out research and development projects with long-term plans for over 30 years. Thanks to this process, it gained competence in the design, production and construction of nuclear power plants in order to finally develop her own, independent technology,” the company said.

In the meantime, however, the lawsuit could be an obstacle to export of the APR1400. “The Westinghouse lawsuit has been dragging for a long time and there’s no guarantee of winning the battle,” said Moon Joo-hyun, an energy engineering professor at Dankook University. Westinghouse said in September that it would continue its legal battle against South Korean firms despite a US court dismissing its lawsuit.

A decision-in-principle has also been issued for copper and silver producer KGHM Polska Miedź SA's plan to construct a NuScale VOYGR small modular reactor plant with a capacity of 462 MWe consisting of six modules, each with a capacity of 77 MWe.

It remains to be seen whether the recent elections in Poland will affect nuclear policy. Overall, the anticipated appointment of Donald Tusk as Prime Minister at the head of a coalition government is not expected to result in any fundamental change. However, Tusk’s known hostility towards President Andrzej Duda could lead to delays in decision-making.

Image: Two APR1400 reactors (as shown above at the Kori nuclear power plant in South Korea) are planned in the Patnów-Konin region of Poland (courtesy of KHNP)