Polish utility Polskie Elektrownie Jądrowy (PEJ) has received a decision from the General Director for Environmental Protection (GDOŚ – Generalnej Dyrekcji Ochrony Środowiska) on the environmental conditions for the construction of Poland’s first NPP in the province of Pomerania. PEJ submitted the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report for the first plant to GDOŚ in March 2022 and in August 2023 applied to the Pomeranian Voivode (Governor), Dariusz Drelich, for a siting decision.

The EIA report looked at the environmental impact of constructing and operating a 3,750 MWe plant in the area of the municipalities of Choczewo, Gniewino and Korkowa in Pomerania. GDOŚ in 2016 had defined the scope of the environmental report in relation to the considered location variants and their technical sub-options, as well as in relation to the infrastructure accompanying the power plant.

Earlier in September, the Pomeranian Voivode issued a decision indicating that the location for the plant will be built in the Pomeranian commune of Choczewo. 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 was needed before PEJ could apply for further administrative decisions, such as the siting and construction permits. PEJ earlier received a positive opinion on safety of the project from the National Atomic Energy Authority.

Before making its decision GDOŚ participated in national and transboundary consultations with 14 countries that applied to take part in the procedure. The national consultations were held in July and August and included all residents of Poland. They were able to review the documentation and submit comments. The transboundary consultations were held from September 2022 until July 2023. The relevant protocols were signed with all the countries involved, including four which came after intergovernmental expert meetings held under Article 5 of the Espoo Convention.

GDOŚ’s draft decision was reviewed by the State Sanitary Inspector of the Pomeranian Voivode as well as by the Director of the Maritime Office in Gdynia, the Director of the Regional Board of Water Management in Gdańsk (part of the State Water Holding Wody Polskie), the President of the Polish National Atomic Energy Agency (PAA – Państwowa Agencja Atomistyki), and the Minister of Climate & Environment.

The decision determines the site as Lubiatowo-Kopalino in the Choczewo municipality. It also defines the environmental conditions that must be met during development and operation of the facility; the environment protection requirements to be included in the design documentation; and requirements for counteracting the effects of industrial accidents. The decision also imposes an obligation to reassess the environmental impact, as part of the procedure for issuing a construction permit.

Treasury-owned PEJ still needs to apply for a construction permit from PAA and will need to conduct further geological surveys, to obtain such permission. Nevertheless, PEJ said GDOŚ’s decision is "a key permit obtained in the investment process, as subsequent administrative approvals, including the location decision and the construction permit, must be consistent with the terms and conditions contained in the decision on environmental conditions".

PEJ President Mateusz Berger said the GDOŚ decision “is one of the most important stages in the permitting process and brings us significantly closer to the start of the construction of the first nuclear power plant in Poland”. He added: "It defines the conditions that must be met in order to execute a nuclear investment project in compliance with environmental regulations and requirements on both the national and international level."

According to the schedule adopted by the Council of Ministers, the NPP will comprise three units with US-based Westinghouse AP1000 reactors and construction is expected to start in 2026 with the first unit being launched in 2033. The units will have an operating life of 60 years, according to the annex to the 500+ page GDOŚ decision.

The investment will be implemented in two phases. The first phase includes a three-year preparatory is the stage and an eight-year construction stage with the three units starting up at yearly intervals. The second phase is the exploitation phase. Decommissioning was not included in PEJ’s application.

Design work for the plant should begin this year and PEJ is expecting to sign a contract with Westinghouse and US Bechtel shortly. The design stage is planned for 2024-2025. Westinghouse and Bechtel have just signed a formal agreement to partner on the design and construction of the Lubiatowo-Kopalino plant. The signing ceremony took place at the US Embassy in Warsaw. Mark Brzezinski, the US Ambassador to Poland said American-Polish cooperation on development and deployment of advanced nuclear technologies continues to grow. “This agreement between Bechtel and Westinghouse … is the next step in our cooperation.

“The agreement is another important milestone in our cooperation with Poland. I am extremely confident that these two partners, Westinghouse and Bechtel will bring the high calibre of nuclear energy technology to the Polish people,” said Dr Kathryn Huff, Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy at the US Department of Energy.

President of. energy systems at Westinghouse David Durham said experience gained on already working AP1000 units pays off. “Advanced and proven AP1000 technology … it will serve the project in Poland and will achieve the objectives of decarbonisation and increasing energy security,” he noted. John Howitz, President of the Nuclear, Security & Environmental business unit at Bechtel said: “Together, we have both proven technology and practical experience required to implement the first nuclear energy programme in the history of Poland. We want to work with local suppliers, employees and the community to provide clean and reliable energy that Poland needs.”

WEC (technology supplier) and Bechtel (construction company) already have experience in cooperation – they work together in the construction of nuclear blocks at the Vogtle power plant in the USA. The first block with the AP1000 reactor has already been connected to the network. There are already 4 other such types in the world.

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 in Georgia and a second unit 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 already started an informal consultation process for support from the European Commission (EC) for its first NPP. Deputy Minister Gibourge-Czetwertyński 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 the PSE transmission network operator, Tomasz Sikorski, has announced that he expects the Polish Power Networks to issue the first conditions for connecting to a NPP to the network in October.