IEA welcomes Poland's nuclear energy plans

25 January 2017

Nuclear power could play a significant role in Poland's energy supply, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). The use of nuclear, it said, would enable the country to boost its electricity generation capacity from clean energy sources while strengthening its energy security.

Poland is highly dependent on coal, which provides about 80% of its electricity generation. Greenhouse gas emissions per gross domestic product and carbon intensity in Poland are among the highest among IEA Europe member countries, the agency said in its first in-depth review of the country since 2011.

In the power sector, it says, many coal-fired power plants are "old, inefficient and polluting". The agency noted that 62% of Poland's coal capacity is over 30 years old and 13% is between 26 and 30 years old. The replacement of these plants, the IEA said, represents "an economic challenge for the sector, but at the same time offers a good opportunity to reduce the air pollution and carbon footprint from power generation".

However, the IEA says Poland is less supportive of an "energy system transformation" than some other IEA member countries and foresees fossil fuels as a fundamental element of its energy system over the long term. The government, it says, has nonetheless placed a strong emphasis on reducing emissions and air pollution, increasing energy efficiency, meeting its renewable energy targets, decarbonising its transport system and introducing nuclear power.

Poland has made substantial progress since deciding in 2009 to pursue nuclear power, according to the IEA. The country's nuclear power program, which was approved in 2014, foresees two nuclear power plants with 6000 MWe of capacity, with the first one commissioned in 2022.

It said both the government and nuclear industry have made significant efforts to acquire and develop knowledgeable and skilled personnel to oversee and execute the nuclear power program. However, the IEA said there is a need for all stakeholders to work together and develop "a cadre of employees and technically qualified personnel such as nuclear, mechanical and electrical engineers and technicians with nuclear power operation or regulatory experience".

The IEA noted that while Poland does not yet have any operating power reactors, it does have experience with nuclear energy and technology. It has a nuclear research facility with an operating research reactor and several other nuclear research activities across the country. The reactor is a 30 MWt pool-type reactor used heavily for medical isotope production and nuclear research.

The Polish public seems favourable towards nuclear energy in general, the IEA said, with strong support of 60% to 80% over the past five years near the two possible sites under consideration for the first reactors: Lubiatowo-Kopalino and Zarnowiec.

However, the IEA said the timeline set out in this previously approved program, with a final investment decision this year and the first unit operational in 2024, "is no longer attainable", and a revised schedule is expected soon.

The IEA said it understands the Polish government will publish a revised energy strategy later this year. The agency said it "strongly encourages Poland to conclude, without delay, the process of finalising the long-term energy strategy to 2050". This process, it said, must include transparent and open consultation with all industry stakeholders and consumers.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News