Skip to main content

Welcome to the Nuclear Club, Poland!

It’s always particularly interesting when a country that has never used nuclear energy – when it could have – decides to start an industry. UAE is a recent example of this. Poland is another:

Donald Tusk, the prime minister, and his cabinet finally adopted the Polish nuclear power program on January 28th, giving the green light to construction of the country's first nuclear-power plant.

I somehow bypassed Poland while touring around eastern Europe in the mid-80s, but I would say that based on my experience of Hungary and East Germany’s wretched air quality, it is not a big surprise why Poland might turn this way.

Currently, hard coal and lignite are used to produce roughly 88% of the electrical grid. Dependence on Russian gas imports, and pressure from Brussels to reduce carbon emissions by 2020 beyond the 20% level previously already agreed, have pushed the government to look for alternatives.

That’ll do it, all right. The Economist put this story in its Ex-Communist blog and I’d say 30 years is a long enough time for Poland to consider its options before moving off lignite. As it is, the first facility, which France (that is, EDF and AREVA) seems to have an inside track on building, is expected to run at 3000 megawatts, enough to take over 17 percent of Poland’s electricity generation. And it’s just a start. Poland was building a nuclear facility when the Communist government collapsed and that’s one of the potential sites for the new one.

I read a story from a Polish news source that says the country wants to follow up quickly with a second facility – which I guess would get nuclear energy up to 34 percent of the country’s generation – and the Polish electricity authority is certainly not holding back on enthusiasm:

Nuclear power turns to be one of the most sought after/prospective sources of energy, which apart from being CO2 emission free, guarantees independence from the typical ways of obtaining energy sources.

Not sure what that means  - awkward translation effort - but I suppose it refers to trying to get Russia to keep the natural gas spigot on – and the benefits of no longer having to do that. What about renewable energy? Well:

Energy prices have soared in Poland, with the hike partially caused by high subsidies having to be paid out to develop the so-called 'renewable sector', including wind and solar power.

Poland signed up to the pledge to bring renewables up to 20 percent of its energy mix by 2020, though now the EC has indicated that in the period, 2021 to 2030, national governments will be allowed to decide how achieve cuts in carbon emissions.

I’m not sure from reading the stories why nuclear energy is more attractive than these subsidies, but it probably has to do with what you get: baseload energy for a reasonably low levelized price. By that I mean that the cost of building the plant may be high, but the cost of running it is quite low. And that can bring down the cost of electricity a lot. And it’s 24/7, not just when the wind decides to blow. But that’s a guess – the stories I’ve read haven’t really explained the economics of the decision.

Comments

jimwg said…
Good positive article!

"By that I mean that the cost of building the plant may be high, but the cost of the resulting electricity is quite low."

If this could only be stressed a lot more to the public while de-FUDing shrill opponents!

James Greenidge
Queens NY

Popular posts from this blog

Making Clouds for a Living

Donell Banks works at Southern Nuclear’s Plant Vogtle units 3 and 4 as a shift supervisor in Operations, but is in the process of transitioning to his newly appointed role as the daily work controls manager. He has been in the nuclear energy industry for about 11 years.

I love what I do because I have the unique opportunity to help shape the direction and influence the culture for the future of nuclear power in the United States. Every single day presents a new challenge, but I wouldn't have it any other way. As a shift supervisor, I was primarily responsible for managing the development of procedures and programs to support operation of the first new nuclear units in the United States in more than 30 years. As the daily work controls manager, I will be responsible for oversight of the execution and scheduling of daily work to ensure organizational readiness to operate the new units.

I envision a nuclear energy industry that leverages the technology of today to improve efficiency…

Nuclear: Energy for All Political Seasons

The electoral college will soon confirm a surprise election result, Donald Trump. However, in the electricity world, there are fewer surprises – physics and economics will continue to apply, and Republicans and Democrats are going to find a lot to like about nuclear energy over the next four years.

In a Trump administration, the carbon conversation is going to be less prominent. But the nuclear value proposition is still there. We bring steady jobs to rural areas, including in the Rust Belt, which put Donald Trump in office. Nuclear plants keep the surrounding communities vibrant.

We hold down electricity costs for the whole economy. We provide energy diversity, reducing the risk of disruption. We are a critical part of America’s industrial infrastructure, and the importance of infrastructure is something that President-Elect Trump has stressed.

One of our infrastructure challenges is natural gas pipelines, which have gotten more congested as extremely low gas prices have pulled m…

Innovation Fuels the Nuclear Legacy: Southern Nuclear Employees Share Their Stories

Blake Bolt and Sharimar Colon are excited about nuclear energy. Each works at Southern Nuclear Co. and sees firsthand how their ingenuity powers the nation’s largest supply of clean energy. For Powered by Our People, they shared their stories of advocacy, innovation in the workplace and efforts to promote efficiency. Their passion for nuclear energy casts a bright future for the industry.

Blake Bolt has worked in the nuclear industry for six years and is currently the work week manager at Hatch Nuclear Plant in Georgia. He takes pride in an industry he might one day pass on to his children.

What is your job and why do you enjoy doing it?
As a Work Week Manager at Plant Hatch, my primary responsibility is to ensure nuclear safety and manage the risk associated with work by planning, scheduling, preparing and executing work to maximize the availability and reliability of station equipment and systems. I love my job because it enables me to work directly with every department on the plant…