Poland is moving towards a low carbon economy with wind farms and nuclear energy as its two pillars, Polish Minister of Climate and Environment Michał Kurtyka said in an interview with Polska Times on 26 February. Poland’s coal plants are ageing, he noted. “We are entering a natural cycle of renewal of production capacity.” He added:

“Currently, we have technological possibilities (wind farms, photovoltaics, nuclear power plants), as well as high social expectations, which make us look for generation sources that are less polluting for the environment. ”He pointed out that one NPP needs two trucks of nuclear fuel a year while a coal-fired power plant requires 200 coal wagons a day.

He said the Polish energy system should be as cheap as possible, noting that in past ten years, the costs of wind energy had fallen by 70% and solar farms by 90%. “But apart from technological trends and social expectations, we also look at increasing energy sovereignty. In this way, we will limit dependence on fuel imports.”

Kurtyka explained that Poland’s 1980s nuclear programme had not been implemented for two reasons. “Firstly, in 1990 no one wanted to increase Poland's dependence on our eastern neighbour. Secondly, we were entering the new reality with relatively young coal-fired units. In addition, there was an economic crash and there was no need for additional energy, so the nuclear programme was postponed.” However, he said, it is the basis for economic sovereignty and provides competitive energy. “There are 20 nuclear units operating within a radius of 300 km of our country. There are 107 of them all over Europe. After the first amortisation period, they produce very cheap and reliable energy. This is a very good source.”

Polish green energy will come from nuclear power, he said. “Poland wants to take this path. We plan to open six nuclear units between 2033 and 2043. Every two years or so, we would open one power unit. Depending on the choice of technology, it will be between 6,000MWe and 9,000MWe. One uranium pellet weighing seven grams gives you as much energy as a ton of carbon. This shows what an environmental burden it is to obtain natural resources in Poland. Two out of every three litres of water in the country is used by the energy and fuel sector.” 

As to sites, he said NPPs “must have access to a large amount of water, hence the Baltic Sea coast seems the most natural”. A number of sites have been selected – Lubiatowo, Choczewo and Żarnowiec in the north and others in central Poland. “This year, we would like to make a decision about the choice of technology, and in 2022, indicate the location for the construction of the first nuclear unit in Poland. Quite a natural choice, as I said before, would be the Baltic coast.”

With respect to technology, Kurtyka said talks are underway with several countries. “We are conducting the most advanced negotiations with the United States. In October last year, we signed a cooperation agreement. But we also have partners from France and South Korea.” Asked about talks with China and Russia he replied: “It seems inadvisable to think that we would have to go back to dependence on technology from the East.”

He stressed that Poland did not intend to finance the nuclear programme with European funds. “These would be our resources and possibly the partner's resources. However, we are signalling to the European Commission that bypassing nuclear energy on the way to climate neutrality (and its EU co-financing) is a mistake that the EU should not allow.”

He concluded: “When thinking about the development of the energy system, we must first focus on solutions that are stable. Hence, nuclear power "working" 365 days a year, regardless of weather conditions. Photovoltaic panels in Poland do not work like they do the south of Spain, and we cannot use wind farms on winter days without wind. However, space for new technological solutions is opening up. These present opportunities for industry and new jobs….

We are dealing with a breakthrough time when it comes to energy technologies. It's like comparing the old Nokia from 20 years ago with today's smartphone. More or less the same technological breakthrough has taken place in the energy sector. Poland wants to find its niche in the race for the most competitive technologies.”