Poland’s first nuclear power plant clears key hurdle in ambitiously timed plan

Poland’s first nuclear power plant clears key hurdle in ambitiously timed plan
Patrick Fragman, CEO of Westinghouse, whose AP1000 technology will be used in the new nuclear power plant. / bne IntelliNews
By Wojciech Kosc in Warsaw September 25, 2023

The first-ever Polish nuclear power plant project has cleared a crucial hurdle on the path to completion by securing the all-important environmental decision on September 22.

The decision sets rules that the project must keep in order to limit its impact on the environment and is a must before the next major step, which is getting a go-ahead for the actual construction.

“This is a milestone in the implementation of an investment that is crucial from the point of view of [Poland’s] energy security,” Climate And Environment Minister Anna Moskwa said on X (formerly Twitter).

The plant will be located in the seaside municipality of Choczewo, some 80 kilometres west of Gdansk. According to the Polish government’s ambitious plan for the project, construction is set to begin in 2026, with the first of three units of the plant going on-grid just seven years later in 2033.  

Poland will thus join most other CEE states as a producer of electricity from nuclear fission.

Nuclear power is the cornerstone of Poland’s plan to reduce the currently dominant share of coal and lignite in electricity generation. Due to its reliance on dirty fossil fuels, the Polish electricity grid is one of the most carbon-intensive in Europe.

The country’s energy transformation strategy assumes that coal’s share in the energy mix will drop from roughly 70% today to no more than 28% in 2040.

Wind power – both on land and offshore – and solar energy are expected to drive Poland’s decarbonisation effort before nuclear power complements the overhauled energy mix, which was virtually 100% coal only 20 years ago.

The plant in Choczewo will use the US company’s Westinghouse AP1000 technology and consist of three units. Poland's state-owned company PEJ is in overall charge of the project.

Critics have long questioned the ambitious schedule, pointing to the heavily delayed nuclear power projects elsewhere in the EU. There also is a local opposition to the project, claiming that the large plant will ruin local tourism potential.

The project has broad political support, however. Key opposition parties, the centrist Civic Coalition and the Left, both pledge to go on with further permitting and eventual construction of the plan should they replace the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) after the election on October 15.