Fierce fight for the Polish atom. Recent arrangements are underway, but it is known who will grab the seaside location
Three companies are currently fighting for the Polish nuclear contract: the American Westinghouse, the French EDF and the Korean KHNP. All competitors agree on one thing – if the first nuclear energy is to start as planned, i.e. in 2033, the decision on the choice of technology must be made as soon as possible, preferably this year. Our information shows that the Polish government was supposed to deal with this issue at the Tuesday meeting, but in the end the discussion was postponed – next week at the earliest.
– The last arrangements are still in progress – explains one of our interlocutors.
Our sources also indicate that the issue of building the first nuclear power plant to be built in Pomerania in the vicinity of Lubiatowo and Kopalino has already been settled, although there is no formal decision yet. Westinghouse is to be selected for this investment. This is not surprising as the Americans have long been indicated as favorites in this race.
It was with the USA that Poland signed an intergovernmental agreement on the development of nuclear energy, and it was based on American technology that a report on the environmental impact of a nuclear investment was prepared planned in Pomerania.
The surprise, however, is that the Americans will probably not get the whole cake. The portal spalainwestorow.pl wrote about such a scenario for the first time. He revealed that Westinghouse would only be able to build the first power plant, with the fate of the others awaiting further decision. And there is a lot to fight for, because the implementation of the entire nuclear program, according to the government’s calculations from several years ago, was to cost around PLN 150 billion. Currently, it may be as much as PLN 200 billion or more.
Our interlocutors confirm that such a scenario is currently being implemented in the government. This is certainly not to the liking of the Americans, who from the beginning persuaded Polish decision-makers that choosing one type of reactor for all units is the best and cheapest solution. Westinghouse, moreover, could for a long time be sure of the leading position in this race, until then in July, Piotr Naimski – minister in the Chancellery of the Prime Minister – lost his position and Government Plenipotentiary for Strategic Energy Infrastructure, responsible for the nuclear program. Naimski has repeatedly made it clear that the best option for Poland will be American reactors, which is why his resignation was a big blow for Westinghouse.
It is possible that discussions between government representatives and the American side are currently underway about the incomplete participation in the entire nuclear program.because such a scenario was not foreseen by Westinghouse. In a recent interview with David Durham, president of energy systems at Westinghousewe asked directly if it was possible for Westinghouse to supply reactors to only one power plant and another company to the other.
– We do not recommend such a solution at all. This would cost Poland much more money, we would lose the synergy effect and the resulting savings. These are completely different reactors, and it would be good if Polish companies participating in the entire supply chain for this investment received training and qualifications in one technology. With two technologies, the workforce on the regulator’s side would have to be doubled, Durham Business Insider replied.
The race is on
Let’s check what this means for further nuclear investments in Poland. If the Americans do not manage to negotiate the construction of a second power plant (each of them is to have three blocks), then EDF and KHNP remain on the battlefield.
According to the Polish nuclear program the second power plant will be located inland and there are two areas indicated here, currently used by lignite power plants – Bełchatów and Pątnów. The authors of the program indicated that it is justified “due to the developed transmission, transport and other infrastructure, location in the center of Poland and the fact that the construction of a nuclear power plant in these areas after the shutdown of the operating power plants will allow to maintain jobs”.
Who could win this contract? By choosing the French offer, the government could theoretically gain an ally, e.g. in the fight for money from EU funds. Poland was cut off by the European Commission from funds for the implementation of the National Reconstruction Plan, and it is possible that also from other sources of support, until it repairs the judiciary. For now, however, it is not apparent that the French are supportive of Poland in this matter.
In turn, business relations with Koreans have recently flourished. Both countries strengthened primarily military cooperation. In July 2022, they signed agreements for the supply to the Polish armed forces of Korean K2 tanks, K9 gun howitzers and FA-50 aircraft. The KHNP authorities argue that the nuclear contract may be the beginning of further cooperation between countries, e.g. in the field of semiconductors, the fourth industrial revolution or in other areas of the economy.
One can also imagine such a scenario that Poland will eventually plan the construction of three nuclear power plants. Westinghouse could then get two according to the offer he made. On the other hand, the third one would go to one of the competitors. The Americans would be satisfied, and Poland would gain two allies and increase the share of zero-emission energy in the national energy mix, and additionally the competitiveness on the market would be maintained. There would be both the wolf and the whole sheep.
All three companies offer the latest generation reactors in Poland. They differ from each other, among others installed power. Westinghouse has 1100 MW reactors, KHNP 1400 MW and EDF 1650 MW. For comparison, the capacity of the largest coal-fired unit in Poland is 1075 MW (in Kozienice Power Plant). The installed capacity of one power plant with three nuclear blocks would therefore be 3.3 GW for the Americans, 4.2 GW for Koreans and 4.95 GW for the French.
Westinghouse assures that its reactor is the only one on the market it has a fully passive safety system, which means that it does not require energy to keep the nuclear fuel cool when power is lost. So if a situation such as, for example, in Fukushima occurs, the reactor will shut down by itself.
Each of the companies declares that is able to complete the construction of the first unit in 2033.which is according to the government plan. All of them also offered a financial model for this project, assuming primarily capital involvement in the company implementing the project, as well as support from the government of their country.
The proposed plant construction costs have not been disclosed. Business Insider revealed late last year that EDF charged EUR 48.5 billion for six blocks (9.9 GW)which is approx PLN 230 billion. This information was commented on by Koreans, claiming that their offer (8.4 GW) is about 30 percent. cheaper than French. Taking into account the differences in the power of the blocks, this would mean an amount of approx PLN 136 billion.
In turn, the Americans questioned the credibility of the rates indicated by EDF. On the other hand, when asked about the price, they directed us to the analysis conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, published earlier this year. It indicated that the construction of the Westinghouse reactor may cost 6.8 thousand. USD / kW and drop to 4.5 thousand. dol./kW with the tenth installed unit. Assuming the six reactors were built at this highest price, the costs would be $ 44.9 billion, or around PLN 220 billion.
Each of the companies ensures that it will employ Polish companies at the investmentand with each subsequent block, this cooperation will expand. However, in the case of the first investment, EDF and Westinghouse offer a share of Polish companies at the level of 50%, and KHNP – 40%.
The Koreans, however, assure that the last nuclear investment in the United Arab Emirates was carried out without delay and in a predetermined budget.
In practice, however political considerations will turn out to be the most importantbecause by choosing nuclear technology, Poland chooses a partner in the strategic sector of the economy for 60-100 years. This is how long it may take to implement the entire nuclear program – from the construction of individual units through their operation to decommissioning.
Author: Barbara Oksińska, journalist from Business Insider Polska
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