Poland’s largest state-controlled power utility, Polska Grupa Energetyczna (PGE), will decide whether to invest in nuclear energy in the next few years, according to PGE CEO Dariusz Marzec said recently raising questions about nuclear projects initiated by the former government.

Poland’s new government led by Donald Tusk, which took office in December, pledged to boost the share of clean power in electricity generation that is now dominated by coal, but has yet to clarify its policy on the energy mix.

In November 2022, the then Polish government selected the Westinghouse AP1000 reactor technology for construction at the Lubiatowo-Kopalino site in the Choczewo municipality in Pomerania. An agreement setting a plan for the delivery of the plant was signed in May 2023 by Westinghouse, Bechtel and Polish nuclear utility Polskie Elektrownie Jądrowe (PEJ). Poland’s Ministry of Climate & Environment in July issued a decision-in-principle for PEJ to construct the plant. The first AP1000 unit was expected to begin commercial operation in 2033.

Westinghouse had been awarded the project following a tender which also included France’s EDF and South Korea’s Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP), despite press reports the Korean offer was the lowest. In April 2023, a joint special purpose vehicle, PGE PAK Energia Jądrowa (PPEJ), was set up by Polish public company ZE PAK (Zespół Elektrowni Pątnów-Adam-Konin SA) and PGE – both Treasury owned – to implement a project to construct a NPP at a former coal plant in Pątnów comprising two APR1400 reactors supplied by KHNP. This project was to develop in parallel with Poland’s official nuclear power programme.

While development of the Westinghouse project still seems to be on course, there is growing uncertainty about the Pątnów plans. “We are at a very preliminary stage of project analysis. The implementation of such a key energy infrastructure project must be included in the government’s overall strategy regarding the development and target model of the nuclear energy segment in our country,” Marzec told Business Insider. Only after the government decides on that model and once the Pątnów project analysis is ready will it be clear if PGE should invest in nuclear power or focus on developing its Baltic offshore portfolio of over 7 gigawatts, he explained. “It’s a matter of the next few years,” he said.

Unofficial reports of Polityka Insight, cited by the DM Trigon newsletter, indicate that the government has already decided to suspend work on Pątnów. During the last meeting of the PPEJ supervisory board, Marzec reportedly said that the investment was de facto frozen. According to Bankier.pl, the PGE press office did not directly confirm these reports, but noted, that the project was at a very preliminary stage.

In April, Marzec had confirmed that the work was proceeding as planned, although it was at an early stage. However, in May, he was quoted by ISB News as saying that PGE was far from the investment decision regarding the project.

According to Polish media, aside from the skeptical attitude of the government of Donald Tusk towards the Patnow project and various financial and technical challenges, the main reason for the probable freezing of the plans is the ongoing dispute between KHNP and the US Westinghouse over technology exports.

Westinghouse in October 2022 filed a lawsuit alleging that Korea’s APR1400 reactors copied the System 80 reactor designed by Combustion Engineering, which was acquired by Westinghouse in 2000. The litigation was a move by Westinghouse to stop the Korean companies from selling reactors to Poland, which was at that time evaluating offers for Poland’s first commercial NPP.

Korea insists that, while early development of its reactor technology was supported by Westinghouse, the current models were developed using its own technologies and are not subject to US restrictions. KHNP says the company has developed original reactor technology over the past 30 years and now owns the intellectual property rights to its nuclear power plant technology.

Dziennik Gazeta Prawna has suggested that EDF could replace KHNP in the Pątnów project, although this was denied by Deputy Minister Miłosz Motyk in an interview with Wzielona zone.pl