US-based Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) has signed an agreement with Polish chemical company Grupa Azoty Police and the West Pomeranian University of Technology in Szczecin. Over the next six months, the parties will prepare a comprehensive research programme and jointly develop a plan for the construction, operation and maintenance of a nuclear energy research facility based on USNC’s Micro-Modular Reactor (MMR) technology.

The first stage of the project will involve the construction of a 30MWt MMR to serve as a training, research & test facility. It will be connected to the existing energy infrastructure of Grupa Azoty Police chemical industry project, providing a unique opportunity to study, test, optimise and integrate the MMR as a zero-carbon generation source into an industrial plant. The collaboration will ultimately lead to the development of a plan for full-scale use of nuclear energy to power chemical processes and to generate steam and hydrogen at Grupa Azoty Police’s plant.

"The experience of the last several months, especially the situation on the gas market, has proved how important the diversification of energy sources is for the domestic business,” said Karol Rabenda, Deputy Minister of State Assets. “I have no doubt that investments in this direction should be treated as a priority, which is why we support all projects – including, of course, SMR and MMR technologies – whose goal is to develop sources of stable and low-emission energy in Poland." Mark Brzezinski, US Ambassador to Poland said cooperation on energy security is a critical component of the US-Polish relationship “and helping develop Poland’s nuclear energy sector is a core part of that effort”.

"In recent years, the Zachodniopomorskie Voivodeship [Province] has become a place of strategic investments accompanied by the development of important fields of science, said Zbigniew Bogucki, West Pomeranian Voivode [Governor]. “I am glad that next to the West Pomeranian Hydrogen Valley" a centre will be built where our scientists and students will have the opportunity to conduct research on the advanced technology of nuclear microreactors. The cooperation will provide Grupa Azoty Police with access to safe, reliable and emission-free Energy."

Tomasz Hinc, CEO & President of the Management Board of Grupa Azoty said the group’s strategy for 2021-2030 targets new renewable capacities totalling nearly 380 MW by 2030. “In our strategic plan, we have also communicated entry into the segments of wind power and small nuclear sources, including MMRs, which will provide us with additional megawatts of zero-carbon energy.” He added that the new agreement “is paving the way for the Grupa Azoty Group to successfully deploy the 4th Generation MMR technology at our sites by the end of the period covered by our current strategy, that is by 2030”.

The project to construct a 4th generation MMR research reactor will require new human resources with expertise in nuclear power. explained Professor Jacek Wróbel, Rector of the West Pomeranian University of Technology in Szczecin. “At the West Pomeranian University of Technology, we have a wealth of capabilities to equip these individuals with the necessary knowledge in this field. We are committed to constantly developing a unique research infrastructure that allows both domestic and foreign entities to conduct research and engage in R&D projects in engineering, science, and life sciences. We are… one of the 11 universities of technology in Poland.

USNC’s MMR is a high-temperature gas-cooled “nuclear battery” utilising Fully Ceramic Micro-encapsulated (FCM) nuclear fuel. USNC has active micro reactor deployment projects in Canada at the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories in Chalk River, in the USA at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and at LUT University in Lappeenranta, Finland. Additional projects are under development in the USA, Canada, and Europe. The cooperation agreement builds on the US-Poland cooperative framework formally established by a February 2021 Intergovernmental Agreement.

Image: Signing of the agreement between Ultra Safe Nuclear Corp, Grupa Azoty Police and the West Pomeranian University of Technology (courtesy of Grupa Azoty)