Poland Partners with General Electric On Nuclear Reactor

by Julia Benbenek

How will the partnership between GE Hitachi and Polish manufacturing company Synthos shape the future of Poland’s energy supply?

On October 22, 2019, Synthos, a Polish manufacturing company of synthetic rubber and producer of chemical raw materials owned by Michał Sołowow, announced it will be partnering with GE Hitachi to develop technology for a small modular reactor (SMR). GE Hitachi is a global nuclear venture between Japan’s Hitachi and the United States General Electric. On October 28, a Letter of Intent was signed between the Polish Ministry of Investment and Development and American Conglomerate General Electric affirming the parties’ commitment to further cooperation on investment in renewable energy.

The signing took place in Warsaw, Poland in presence of the U.S. Ambassador Georgette Mosbacher. The signatories of the letter include Jerzy Kwieciński, Minister of Finance, Investment and Development, Sławomir Żygowski, President of the Management Board of GE Power, and Fabrice Kermorgant, Vice President for GE Renewable Energy.

Currently, Poland generates approximately 80% of its electricity from coal. Consequently, Warsaw has faced pressure from the EU to cut carbon emissions in order to achieve the EU’s environment goals. However, the process of curbing carbon emissions is gradual. By 2040, Poland expects that only a third of energy demand will be supplied by coal. Therefore, Polish companies have been exploring low-carbon options; one of these options includes nuclear energy. Poland’s Finance Minister Jerzy Kwieciński states, “It is not so easy to switch onto renewable energy sources and nuclear energy is an alternative which might be used.” By 2033, Poland hopes to build its first traditional nuclear power plant.

The joint project between Synthos and GE Hitachi will develop technology for the BWRX-300 SMR. SMR uses nuclear technology that produces about 1/10 of electricity created by large-scale projects. The water-cooled, natural circulation SMR unit with passive safety systems has been certified by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In a statement, Sołowow commented, “Small modular reactors can play a significant role in addressing Poland’s energy challenges, the modernization of the nation’s energy sector and in achieving necessary and responsible deep decarbonization,” The project is expected to be completed within the next ten years with capital spending expected at below $1 billion.

The partnership between Poland and GE shines a promising light on Poland’s transition to greater dependence on renewable energy. Moreover, the agreement lays the foundation for strengthened cooperation between Poland and the US on energy security. Minister Kwieciński remarks, “Excellent political cooperation between Poland and the United States translates into specific business effects. Our government places great emphasis on both the transformation of the energy system and the security of energy supply. We can achieve these two goals in cooperation with leading global suppliers of energy technologies.”

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