Poland Seeks SMRs for Process Heat Applications

  • Poland’s PKN Orlen Partners with Synthos to Build SMRs for Process Heat and
    Electricity Generation
  • Poland / Westinghouse And Bechtel To Begin Study For First Nuclear Project
    Under US Grant Funding
  • Brazil Hires Tractebel Consortium for Angra 3

Poland’s PKN Orlen Partners with Synthos to Build SMRs for Process Heat and Electricity Generation

(NucNet contributed to this report)  Poland’s PKN Orlen (PKN.WA) has signed a cooperation agreement with chemicals company Synthos to develop small modular reactor (SMR) projects PKN Orlen CEO Daniel Obajtek, CEO of the oil company, said in late June. Obtajtek is one of the richest people in Poland and has been described as an oligarch.

Obajtek said that the investment in small reactors will not affect Poland’s investment in large nuclear power plants. The project is moving well ahead of the timeframe set by Poland’s central government for deployment of full size nuclear reactors, e.g., 1000 MWe, by the mid-1930s or later. The SMR effort was first announced in December 2019. Both firms made it clear in their press statements that their SMR initiative is separate from the government’s plans for the big iron, e.g., 1000 MWe PWRs.

“We have signed a framework agreement regarding the implementation of zero-emission technology, nuclear technology, small and micro-nuclear reactors,” Obajtek said, adding that companies should agree on details of the deal within three months. Poland, which is heavily dependent on coal for power generation, plans to increase its share of emissions-free nuclear and renewable energy generation.

PKN Orlen, is a Polish petrol retailer and oil refiner. Synthos, a manufacturer of synthetic rubber and one of the biggest producers of chemical raw materials in Poland, is interested in obtaining affordable, on-demand, carbon-free electricity from a dependable, dedicated source like SMRs. Both firms plan to use SMRs for process heat for their production facilities.

A press statement  noted that Synthos sees SMRs primarily for industrial use, plus the possible production of hydrogen. Such reactors will not be the primary, but a supplementary source of energy, he emphasized.

Obajtek said that a special purpose corporate relationship (SPV) will be established called Orlen Synthos Green Energy, which will undertake implementation of the SMR project. He said the firm expects the first SMR to be built as a result of the agreement within the next 7-10 years. The plan may involve a fleet of SMRs over time.

“SMRs are easier to build, zero-emission, have a low exploitation cost and can be an addition to the Polish energy system. Their construction is cheap and fast, which guarantees a rapid rate of return,” he said.

GEH BWRX-300 May Have a Future in Poland

Previously,  Synthos signed a cooperation agreement with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) on the possibility of building the BWRX-300 reactor in Poland. The BWRX-300, a 300-MW water-cooled, natural circulation SMR with passive safety systems, makes use of the design and licensing basis of GEH’s Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor, or ESBWR. Through significant design simplification, GEH has stated that the BWRX-300 will require up to 60% less capital cost per MW when compared to other water-cooled SMR designs or existing large nuclear reactor designs. (fact sheet).

The president of Synthos, Zbigniew Warmuz, told journalists that, in his opinion, the BWRX-300 reactor  could be built by 2027-2028. “I think that 2030-2031 is realistic for Poland,” he added.

Warmuz noted that Poland still needs regulations that would allow entities such as Orlen and Synthos to build a low-power nuclear power plant.

“Today there are simply no such regulations, a nuclear power plant can only be built by the state, and not by a private entity. This has to change,” he said, adding that it takes several years to change the regulations.

WNN reported that Synthos in October 2020 began a regulatory dialogue with the Polish National Atomic Energy Agency on the possibility of building the BWRX-300 in Poland, with the support of US utility Exelon Generation, GEH and Finland’s Fortum Power and Heat Oy.

Separately, in November 2020, Synthos signed a cooperation agreement with Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation, which is developing the high-temperature gas-cooled MMR. USNC and Synthos jointly applied to the Polish Ministry of Development for financing from the IPCEI mechanism (Important Projects of Common European Interest) for projects within the scope of the value chain of hydrogen technologies and systems. The goal of the joint project is the development of an economically efficient, zero-emission, high-temperature heat and power source for the production of hydrogen on an industrial scale.

The full size (1500 MWe) ESBWR design, which is the design template for the smaller (300 MWe) BWRX-300, was certified by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission in October 2014. So far none have been built. Plans by two U.S. utilities to do so, FERMI III and North Anna III, were cancelled due to cost issues and a lack of demand for new electrical generation capacity.

Plans for Full Size Reactors Lag Due to Lack of Financial Resources

The Polish government has already said it wants to build from 6,000 to 9,000 MWe of installed commercial nuclear capacity using conventional large-scale technology with operation of a first reactor unit in a proposed set of six earmarked for 2033.

About 80% of Poland’s electricity comes from ageing coal plants, many of which will have to close in the coming decade. Poland wants to reduce that to 60% in the 2030s. Poland realizes it needs to lower emissions if it is to meet EU targets and sees nuclear energy as one way to do it.

So far politicians have struggled to find the right financing models for a nuclear new build plan announced in 2014, and in subsequent years, but have repeatedly stalled on this issue.

& & &

Poland / Westinghouse And Bechtel To Begin Study For First Nuclear Project Under US Grant Funding

(NucNet) The US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) will release grant funding for Poland’s Polskie Elektrownie Jadrowe (PEJ, formerly PGE EJ1), the company charged with managing the country first nuclear power project, for a front-end engineering and design study involving US-based Westinghouse Electric Company and Bechtel Corporation.

USTDA said in a statement that the study will be carried out by Westinghouse and Bechtel and will support the Polish government’s decision-making process for the deployment of two nuclear power stations, each consisting of three full-size nuclear reactors. Warsaw wants to build six reactors totaling 6000-9000 MWe at two sites.

The study will provide PEJ with site layout plans for the location of the first nuclear power station, a strategic licensing plan, a project schedule, and a budgetary cost estimate for delivery, construction and start-up of the first power plant. These deliverables are part of a laundry list of items that have to be completed under the bilateral agreement before the US will consider financing any nuclear projects or portions of one in Poland. Reuters reported in October 2020 that Poland is seeking $18 billion in US financing for its nuclear plans.

Poland has also signed an agreement with the US Export-Import (Exim) Bank to finance projects supporting climate change in Poland, including potential new reactors. It is unclear how much direct project financing the US will provide v. bank-to-bank transfers to Poland’s central treasury ministry. In any case the financing is contingent on completion and acceptance of the USTDA work scope.

USTDA said that “in a demonstration of broad US government support for the project,” funding will be contributed by other agencies like the US Departments of State’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs and the Department of Energy. Westinghouse and Bechtel will contribute additional resources toward the study’s completion. The amount of funding being provided by each organization is not listed in the press statement.

“The front-end engineering and design study, on which US companies will now be able to begin their work, will help Poland’s government take the final decision on strategic partnership in constructing Poland’s nuclear power plants for a clean energy system”, said Polish secretary of state for strategic energy infrastructure Piotr Naimski.

Westinghouse said that the front-end study will be based on its AP-1000 technology and will be reviewed after one year by the Polish government to help in its selection of the “best partner” for its nuclear power program.

Poland wants to build from 6,000 to 9,000 MW of installed nuclear capacity based on large-scale, pressurized water nuclear reactors of Generation III and III+ designs. Commercial operation of a first nuclear reactor unit in a proposed set of six is planned for 2033 or later.

According to Tomasz Nowacki, director of the nuclear energy department at Warsaw’s climate ministry, Poland’s goal is to have one strategic partner for its ambitious nuclear program “for decades”, not only for construction but for operation and decommissioning.

The Polish government has said no decision has been made on the technology to be used for the new-build project and that the procurement of an AP1000 was not a done deal since other vendors from other countries may be able to provide better terms. South Korea has recently stepped up its marketing efforts to win the nuclear business in Poland and other infrastructure and heavy industry projects in EU countries.

According to Reuters, Poland, which is a large purchaser of Russia’s natural gas, which competes with nuclear power, plans to halt those gas purchases after 2022. Instead, it will take pipeline deliveries from Norway and liquefied natural gas, from the United States and others. The Bloomberg wire service reported that even if Poland builds out its complete plan for nuclear reactors, natural gas will still dominate the energy landscape through 2045.

& & &

Brazil Hires Tractebel Consortium for Angra 3

(WNN) Brazil’s National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES) has hired a consortium to structure the project for the completion of the 1340 MWe Angra 3 nuclear power plant in Rio de Janeiro. Work on the unit was halted for a second time in 2015, when just over 60% of the project had already been completed. It is now expected to start operations at the end of 2026.

The consortium is tasked with defining the investment needed for the project, the detailed schedule of work and specification of how one or more construction companies will be hired to carry out the work.

“Contracting of the consortium, composed of companies with extensive experience in advising on the implementation of nuclear power plants in the world, will allow the market to be designed with the confidence necessary to attract first-rate building partners and a wide range of financing agents in Brazil and worldwide,” said Leonardo Cabral, director of privatizations at BNDES. An engineering procurement construction contractor (EPC) will be hired to complete the project.

Angra 3 will generate enough energy to serve about six million homes, BNDES said. It will also increase the reliability of the national grid since, unlike solar and wind power, nuclear energy is not weather-dependent.

Cabral said in March that he expects a financing arrangement to finish Angra 3 will be ready by the end of next year. BNDES is one of the biggest providers of financing for infrastructure projects in Brazil, and also played a role in financing nuclear energy in the past.

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