A project to develop small nuclear power reactors in Poland is moving forward, with a cooperation agreement between the Polish energy giant ORLEN and two U.S. government financial institutions signed Monday.
Poland is turning toward renewable and noncarbon energy, away from its past reliance on its own coal. Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine has also accelerated Poland’s drive to cut its dependence on Russian oil and gas.
In a ceremony at the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Warsaw, the U.S. EXIM Bank signed a letter of interest in lending up to $3 billion and the U.S International Development Finance Corporation signed a letter of interest to lend up to $1 billion to the ORLEN Synthos Green Energy project for developing some 20 small BWRX-300 modular reactors designed by GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy.
U.S. Ambassador Mark Brzezinski stressed that Russia’s aggression against Ukraine almost 14 months ago reinforced the need to turn toward safe and reliable energy sources.
At a later news conference, Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that Poland needed a “cheap, clean and reliable energy source” like the SMR reactors, which will produce emission-free energy and be a driving force for the economy for decades to come.
Coal mining is among Poland’s largest employers, providing some 80,000 jobs and supplying some 70% of the country’s energy, and Morawiecki said that industry will continue to guarantee power security. He stressed, however, that global climate concerns and European Union regulations are calling for a shift to renewable and clean energy, which the nuclear reactors plan is helping to advance.
PKN ORLEN president, Daniel Obajtek said Poland’s first BWRX-300 reactor should be launched in 2029 and will be the world’s second, after a similar one becomes operational in Darlington, Canada.
He stressed that “there is no stopping of energy transformation” in the world and the oil and gas giant — 49.9% owned by the Polish state — is planning 320 billion zlotys ($75 billion) of investments.
In February, Poland’s government and the U.S. Westinghouse Electric Company signed a deal for pre-design cooperation on the central European nation’s first large nuclear power plant, using the American company’s technology. Construction on the plant is to begin in 2026 and it should start supplying the energy grid in 2032.