Poland's Climate & Environment Ministry issued decisions-in-principle for the construction at six locations of BWRX-300 small modular reactors (SMRs). A total of 24 GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy BWRX-300 reactors are planned for the sites.

Orlen Synthos Green Energy (OSGE) in April shortlisted seven locations in Poland for further geological surveys to host SMR plants based on GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy's BWRX-300, for which it holds the exclusive right in Poland. The locations were: Ostrołęka, Włocławek, Stawy Monowskie, Dąbrowa Górnicza, Nowa Huta, Tarnobrzeg Special Economic Zone and Warsaw.

OSGE then submitted applications to the Ministry of Climate & Environment for decisions-in-principle on the construction of SMRs all those locations except Warsaw.

The Ministry’s decisions-in-principle for the six locations is the first step in the process of administrative permits for investments in nuclear power facilities in Poland. This entitles OSGE to apply for a number of further administrative arrangements, such as a siting decision or construction licence.

Rafał Kasprów, President of OSGE’s Management Board announced the decisions during the Net Zero Nuclear forum at the COP28 climate change conference in Dubai. "The decisions enable us to launch a programme to build a fleet of BWRX-300 reactors in Poland to provide zero-emission, stable energy sources for the energy, industry and heating sectors," he said.

GE Hitachi, BWXT Canada and Synthos Green Energy (SGE) in December 2021, signed a Letter of Intent to cooperate in deploying BWRX-300 SMRs in Poland. OSGE – a joint venture between chemical producers SGE and PKN Orlen applied to Poland's National Atomic Energy Agency in July 2022 for the assessment of the reactor design.

However, the Climate Ministry’s positive decision has been thrown into doubt after the Internal Security Agency (ABW – Agencja Bezpieczeństwa Wewnętrznego) issued a negative opinion on the plans, according to Polish media. Polityka weekly reported that the ABW noted that the Climate Ministry is required to obtain the ABW’s opinion as part of its assessment of the nuclear project.

While ABW’s opinion is not binding, a negative assessment makes it unlikely the Ministry would approve the SMR plans, according to industry news service Energetyka24. OSGE confirmed that the ABW had issued a negative opinion but issued a statement strongly objecting to the agency’s assessment. OSGE accused ABW of being “incompetent and irresponsible” in the context of Poland’s increasingly urgent need for an energy transition away from coal. It also called for the agency’s reasoning for its decision to be declassified.

“In the course of more than 230 days of proceedings, the ABW did not once meet with either the applicant, OSGE, the technology supplier, US-based GE-Hitachi, or see the data on the proposed locations,” company said in a statement. “We do not know on what basis ABW issued its opinions.” OSGE said its requests to declassify ABW’s reasons for its opinion had been rejected and that it would pursue the case further in court. “We are convinced that these are neither substantive nor professional reasons.”

Business Insider said the negative ABW decision was known in the Ministry and to OSGE at least a month ago, both of which had appealed against it. Business Insider's unnamed source officials at the Ministry of Climate repudiated ABW’s opinion which reportedly concerned the technology itself. Pressed for are consideration of the decision, ABW issued a negative opinion for the second time, Business insider noted.

Reporting on the dispute, TVN24 Business cited OSGE as saying:

"The world is moving towards both large and SMR nuclear technologies, as confirmed by the current COP28 global climate conference. To achieve the goals of decarbonising Polish energy, many state and private investments are needed.” The company insisted that it had been "transparently" conducting the process of implementing technology from the beginning. ABW had provided " neither substantive nor professional reasons". OSGE added “will continue its licensing, environmental and location activities related to the construction of the BWRX-300 fleet for the needs of Polish industry, heating and energy".

TVN24 also received a statement from ABW, which said, as a public authority it “acts only on the basis and within the limits of law”. Minister and Coordinator of Special Services Mariusz Kamiński defended the ABW decision accusing OSGE of “manipulations and lies”. He added: “Before issuing an opinion, the Agency conducts a multi-element opinion procedure aimed at assessing the impact of the indicated investment on the internal security of the state." With respect to the application submitted by OSGE, “it should be noted that in the opinion of ABW, the investment carried out by the company unduly protects the interests of the Treasury, including Orlen”. He insisted that the activities of ABW were aimed at "soundly safeguarding the interests of the Republic of Poland, and were conducted in accordance with the regulations and maintaining the highest standards".

These developments come amid uncertainty about what is going to be the next government's stance on nuclear energy, following elections in October. Opposition leader Donald Tusk is hoping to lead a coalition government of three opposition groups. His statements indicate that he is in favour of large-scale nuclear. “Nuclear power plants are essential. We are out of time,” he said in November. However, according to PAP, his view on SMRs is less clear. Commenting on the OSGE-ABW dispute he noted that “this civil war” between state institutions “on such an important issue must raise concern”. He criticised Orlen and the government for ignoring the ABW’s concerns and pushing ahead with the plans.

Earlier, the Ministry of Climate & Environment issued decisions-in-principle for the construction of two large nuclear power plants: one for a 3750 MWe plant in Pomerania using Westinghouse's AP1000 technology, the other for a plant comprising two South Korean-supplied APR1400 reactors in the Patnów-Konin region. A decision-in-principle was also issued for copper and silver producer KGHM Polska Miedź SA's plan to construct a NuScale VOYGR SMR.