The race for the Polish Small Modular Reactor (SMR) market has begun

Poland has a real opportunity to ensure its energy security and reduce its carbon emissions through nuclear energy, writes Piotr Piela

editor: Grzegorz Adamczyk
author: Piotr Piela

The Small Modular Reactor (SMR) nuclear technology is nothing new, but its civil application is. Small and micro nuclear reactors have been used by the military for a few decades, mostly to power ships. Currently, more than 70 small civil nuclear reactor projects are underway worldwide. France, which has pledged to allocate €1 billion to the development of SMR technology and its commercialization by 2030, has joined the race lately.

Climate change and climate policy, which are two factors driving the adoption of SMR technology, demand a deep transformation of not only the energy sector but also many other branches of the economy. Traditional, mined sources of energy are being pushed out by renewable energy sources, whose share in the global energy mix is growing dynamically. In this context, nuclear energy is becoming the focus, although it did lose much of its popularity following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Nevertheless, the recent appeal of 11 energy ministers shows that the European green transformation will be impossible without zero emission nuclear energy. In addition to Poland, countries like France, Czechia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Hungary, Finland and Romania all signed the appeal. Even Germany, recently taught how unfavorable weather can be for producing energy and the necessity to activate coal power plants, increasingly often admits that the flagship Energiiwende program has turned out to be too ambitious even for the powerful German economy.

Alongside the climate transformation, the energy system is undergoing substantial fragmentation. Large systemic power plants are being replaced by smaller units in line with the idea that energy should be consumed as much as possible where its located, as energy transfer also leads to a loss in energy. This has a fundamental meaning for the energy creation sector, as well as the energy supply and distribution areas which must be reconstructed.

In this context, small nuclear reactors, which can be flexibly adjusted to local needs, seem to be an ideal answer to the market’s needs.

Another argument in the favor of SMR technology is the much lower scale of investment expenditure due to the size of singular units. Even Polish companies can bear this scale, which has been proven by the declarations of KGHM, PKN Orlen and private investors such as Michał Sołowow and Zygmunt Solorz. I am convinced that this is not the end, and many others will joint this group.

Poland should draw conclusions from the dynamic development of renewable energy sources. Unfortunately, the majority of renewable energy sources have been and are being developed in Poland based on technology imported from abroad. The participation of Polish companies in the fulfillment of SMR projects should have a key role when it comes to choosing a potential supplier. As the race for the Polish market has merely begun, I think that Poland has much to say in this matter.

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