In Poland, two companies, copper producer KGHM and polystyrene foam producer Synthos, are going to work with small modular SMR nuclear reactors. So far, more than 70 companies around the world are involved in unique SMR projects. Hence the popularity of “small-scale nuclear power” seems to be increasing. Still, not everyone wants to jump on the train.
The CEO of KGHM has warned that finding cheap energy sources for Polish business is a “matter of national importance”. That’s why the copper producer plans to build four small modular reactors.
CEO Marcin Chludzinski says the nuclear reactors will make KGHM, Poland’s second largest consumer of electricity, self-sufficient in energy production. They also have to protect the company from fluctuating energy prices.
The American conglomerate NuScale is going to manufacture the SMR. The first will come in 2029.
“To compete globally, energy-intensive companies like ours need access to the cheapest electricity, and that’s our goal,” it said in an interview with United States. financial Times.
“It’s not only a challenge for us, (…) it’s a challenge for all companies in Poland. Because if energy continues to get expensive at this rate, we will lose our ability to invest.”
Poland is one of the most coal-dependent economies in the European Union. Last year, the Central European country generated about 70 percent of its energy from fossil fuels.
But now that the EU has tightened its climate targets and the cost of CO2 emissions has gone up, companies are increasingly looking for access to affordable and stable electricity supplies. Many have expressed interest in small modular reactors (SMRs).
In August, two of Poland’s richest men, Michal Solowo, who controls the chemical conglomerate Synthos, and Zygmunt Solorz, who owns a majority stake in media conglomerate Polsat and energy conglomerate ZE PAK, agreed to start their business by the end. announced a project for Build your own SMRs this decade.
Synthos has also signed agreements to collaborate on technology with Poland’s state oil refinery, PKN Orlen, and Seech, a chemicals group controlled by billionaire Sebastian Kulczyk.
“Very harsh punishment”
Chludzinski believes that Poland was punished “very severely” for the fact that its energy was still heavily reliant on coal. But he believes technology like SMR will help accelerate the country’s energy transition.
“Poles are very flexible. If it turns out that these are conditions in which we have to compete, and they cannot be changed, we are able to adapt very quickly. And I think energy changes, which Should happen over time, can intensify,” he explains.
The agreement between KGHM and NuScale in Warsaw last week provides for the construction of four SMRs with a capacity of 77 megawatts (MW) each by the end of 2030. But there is also scope to increase the number of units to 12. , which will generate about 1 gigawatt (GW) of electricity.
Chludzinski believes that the project – the cost of which has yet to be decided – could have a side effect of making KGHM a net energy producer. But he claims that this was not the purpose of the operation.
“We are not moving from a copper producer to an energy company. We are mainly focusing on copper,” it seems. “But we have to be self-sufficient in energy, and if we have more energy than we need, we sell it.”
Attraction of SMR
One of the major appeals of SMR reactors is that they can be factory built and then shipped. Thus, more can be added as the demand for energy increases.
The reactors have a capacity of between 50 and 300 MW, but they can be combined to form a power plant of up to 1,000 MW. In addition, a fault in one of the modules can be rectified without completely ceasing operation. This reduces both the environmental risk and the cost of the project – which is often criticized by energy companies and opponents of nuclear power.
Of course, opponents of nuclear power will also be opponents of SMR. So Professor Geert Verbong of the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) is not convinced. “The fact is that SMR reactors of this type have never been used anywhere on a large scale,” it says in The Independent Journalism. innovation core. “They are still in the experimental stage. In addition, they face the same problems as existing and new generation large nuclear power plants. It means the opponents see no point in it,” he concluded.