US green lights use of its nuclear power technology for Poland

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The United States is approving the  transfer of nuclear power technology for Poland as it moves to strengthen its embassy in Warsaw with specialists on nuclear power.

The question of the United States participating in Poland’s nuclear energy program was discussed during the Trump-Duda meeting in Washington in June, but the details have had to wait until Poland concluded its presidential election and Washington was certain that Poland would maintain its interest in pursuing such a program with U.S. assistance.

Now that the election is over and President Andrezj Duda remains in office, the U.S. has decided to move forward with transferring nuclear specialists to the country.

The Polish government is also accelerating its own efforts in regards to atomic energy. It has confirmed that in its legislative agenda there will be the construction of 6 to 9 gigawatt plant based on large, tried and tested water pressure reactors.

The Polish state is expediting its nuclear power plans in order to improve energy security and to ensure smooth decommissioning of aging coal powered plants by replacing them with technology that meets the country’s goals to reduce CO2 emissions.

According to government sources, the construction is to be undertaken by a separate public company. The objective is to change the energy mix towards nuclear power and renewable sources of energy. Some ministers reportedly prefer small-module reactors (SMRs) over the classic large-scale reactors, but Poland does not want to wait until the new technology is licensed and made operational in other parts of the world. The first operational SMR will not be online until 2026 and unlikely to be seen in Poland until at least 2030.

Since the nuclear power program was initiated in Poland by the liberal Civic Platform (PO) government and the far-right Confederation party also supports nuclear power, there should be no problem gaining cross-party support for the required legislation and public spending.

The challenge lies in securing the financial support for the project, which estimated to cost between €15 billion and €20 billion. The investment required is of a scale that no single Polish energy conglomerate would be able to fund such a project.

The government official responsible for strategic energy network issue is Piotr Naimski, who has been conducting detailed talks with the U.S. administration on the matter.

It is no secret that the Polish side hopes that apart from supplying the technology the U.S. will also participate in the financing of the venture. But U.S. financial institutions are weary of engaging in nuclear power projects even at a domestic level.

Another challenge lies in convincing the U.S. to sign off on the transfer of technology. The procedures on such transfers are arduous and are expected to cause serious delays. They have also often been criticized internally in the U.S. for being a barrier of trading technology, but the will to change these strict procedures seems to be in place.

In the spring, the think tank the Atlantic Council published a report “A New Energy Strategy for The Western Hemisphere”, which included recommendations on enhancing energy sovereignty of allies, including the transfer of nuclear power.

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