EdF to help Polish utility go nuclear

18 November 2009

Poland's largest power utility, Polska Grupa Energetyczna (PGE), has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Electricité de France (EdF) which could see the two companies cooperating in the construction of the country's first nuclear power plant.


The MoU provides for feasibility studies to be jointly conducted on the development of Areva EPR reactors in Poland and on the construction of the first EPR unit in Poland by 2020. PGE and EdF also agreed to discuss the possibility of industrial partnerships in the construction of EPR units in Poland.


State-owned PGE said that the MoU with EdF contains no exclusivity clause between the two companies in the development of nuclear energy in Poland. The company said the MoU was signed following preliminary discussions between PGE and potential investment partners with experience in constructing and operating nuclear power plants. PGE said it plans to sign similar agreements with other such partners soon.


PGE is considering constructing two nuclear power plants, each with a capacity of some 3000 MWe - two or three large reactors each. The company would hold 51% of the projects as part of a consortium with foreign partners. According to a preliminary timetable, site, technology and construction arrangements should be in place by 2011-13, with technical plans completed and site works starting by 2014-15. Construction of the first unit is scheduled to begin in 2016, with operation due to start by the end of 2020. Subsequent units will come on line every two or three years.


The signing of the MoU comes after a joint declaration on energy, environment and climate was signed in Paris by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Polish prime minister Donald Tusk earlier this month. The declaration called for France to assist Poland in the construction of nuclear power plants.


Poland has the largest reserves of coal in the EU (14 billion tonnes), and some 93% of its electricity is generated by coal-fired plants. Poland's electricity consumption is forecast to grow by 90% to 2025, but the EU has placed stringent restrictions on CO2 emissions. A roadmap for nuclear energy was unveiled by the Polish government in August, setting out the steps it will take with the aim of generating nuclear power before 2021.


Locations for the power plant are to be identified between 2011 and the end of 2014, with a final decision taken towards the end of the period. One potential site would be the northern town of Zarnowiec, where four Russian VVER-440 pressurized water reactors began construction only to be cancelled in 1990.