Poland to be a key market for Westinghouse

18 March 2015

Poland will be an important market in Europe for Westinghouse, Mike Kirst, the company's vice president for strategy and external relations for Europe, said in an interview with EurActiv published today.

"Clearly, one of the largest markets going forward for nuclear reactor development is in Poland, [which] relies for roughly 90% of its power supplies on coal. Therefore, in order to meet EU environmental, but also energy security, objectives it is going to be the future for Poland to develop nuclear energy as a key energy resource […] and therefore we believe that Poland will be an important market in Europe for Westinghouse," Kirst said.

With such a heavy reliance on coal, Poland is facing "ever-more stringent" carbon dioxide emissions reduction requirements that put the country into an "energy security conundrum", he said.

"So they are looking at a solution where the nuclear equation comes in, and they have spoken of potentially up to 11 nuclear reactors by 2030. I don't think this is going to happen at that scale and in this timeframe, but I think the vision is roughly correct. That's going to probably be the biggest market [for new nuclear in Europe]," he said.

Westinghouse has a shareholders' agreement with the owner of the Kozloduy 7 nuclear power reactor project in Bulgaria, but that is contingent on both parties determining that the project is bankable, Kirst said. By 'bankable', he meant the project would need to be competitive versus current and future power generation costs. "We need to determine when the power plant comes online, let's say in 2025, what would be the energy price at that point, and what would be the cost of the alternatives. That work still needs to be done," he said.

Of the reactors Westinghouse has under development in Europe, the first to come online will be in the UK. The company has a preliminary agreement with GDF Suez to build three reactors at the Moorside site, near Sellafield.

"This could be our lead project in Europe, and we are in negotiations with the UK government with regard to a package that would look similar to Hinkley Point C, which EDF and Areva completed. And then comes Kozloduy 7," Kirst said.

Westinghouse spent nearly three years working on a tender to add units to the Temelin nuclear power plant in the Czech Republic. Last April the project was cancelled, but Westinghouse believes that "eventually the Czechs will determine that they need replacement of their existing reactors. The question is when they want to start that process," Kirst said.

The company does not see opportunities in Slovakia or Hungary, which both have strong links with Russia's Rosatom for their new reactor projects, Kirst said. But it has "talked to the Slovenians to potentially expand the Westinghouse plant at Krško, built many years ago," he added.

Danny Roderick, Westinghouse CEO and president, was on a working visit to Ukraine last week, where he and Kirst met with the country's president, prime minister, energy minister and the head of Energoatom.

Energoatom, which operates all of Ukraine's 15 nuclear reactors, announced plans to increase its cooperation with Westinghouse that include an expansion in the use of the US-based company's nuclear fuel, a memorandum aimed at familiarising Energoatom personnel with the AP1000 reactor design, and Westinghouse's participation in a future fuel fabrication plant in Ukraine.

"During our discussions, we posed that same question: What else do you need? And what they said is that they want more electricity generation, because they lost a significant part of their coal-generated power supply in the east," Kirst said. "There was a focus on building new units. But what we really tried to impress upon them is that we saw even better opportunities in the short term, by increasing the efficiency of the existing reactors, meaning to increase the amount of days when they produce power. And/or increase the power levels by 10%. If you increase the power levels and also increase the efficiency, some preliminary data show that this is the equivalent of building two reactors."

A lot of work on this will be done "not by Westinghouse", Kirst said, "but honestly, we believe that that would be the most beneficial solution for Ukraine today. New units could come at a later junction, but this should be the immediate priority."

Outside Europe, Westinghouse is building four new AP1000 units in the USA and four in China. The first of these will be completed in China next year and Westinghouse is also in negotiations with its Chinese partners to build more.

"They are determined to standardise their nuclear program, because they have built pretty much every single other design, French, Russian, Canadian, and now they want to determine which one of them they want to replicate on national level, and they have chosen our design. There will be a lot of AP1000 and AP1000 derivatives in China in the next decade," Kirst said.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News