In Poland, two companies, the copper producer KGHM and the polystyrene foam producer Synthos, will work with small modular SMR nuclear reactors. So far, more than 70 companies around the world are involved in unique SMR projects. Therefore, the popularity of “small-scale atomic energy” appears to be increasing. Still, not everyone wants to get on the train.
Finding cheaper energy sources is “a matter of national importance” for Polish companies, warns the CEO of KGHM. That is why the copper producer has plans to build four small modular reactors.
Chief Executive Marcin Chludzinski says nuclear reactors will make KGHM, Poland’s second-largest electricity consumer, self-sufficient in energy production. They must also protect the company from volatility in energy prices.
The US group NuScale is going to build the SMRs. The first will arrive in 2029.
“To compete globally, energy-intensive companies like ours need access to the cheapest electricity possible, and that is our goal,” he said in an interview with the United States. Financial times.
“It is not just a challenge for us, (…) it is a challenge for all companies in Poland. Because if energy continues to become more expensive at this rate, our investment capacity will decrease. “
Poland remains one of the most coal-dependent economies in the EU. Last year, the Central European country generated almost 70 percent of its energy from fossil fuels.
But now that the EU has tightened its climate targets and the costs of CO2 emissions have risen, companies are increasingly looking for access to cheaper and more stable electricity supplies. Several have expressed interest in small modular reactors (SMR).
In August, two of Poland’s richest men, Michal Solowow, who controls chemical group Synthos, and Zygmunt Solorz, who owns majority stakes in media group Polsat and energy group ZE PAK, announced a project to launch their business. later this decade, create your own SMRs.
Synthos has also signed agreements to collaborate on the technology with PKN Orlen, Poland’s state oil refinery, and Ciech, the chemical group controlled by billionaire Sebastian Kulczyk.
“Punished too severely”
Chludzinski believes that Poland was punished “too severely” for the fact that its energy was still heavily dependent on coal. But he believes technology like SMRs will help accelerate the country’s energy transition.
“The posts are very flexible. If it turns out that these are the conditions we have to compete in and they can’t be changed, then we can adapt pretty quickly. And I think that the energy transformation, which should take place over time, could be accelerated ”, he points out.
The agreement between KGHM and NuScale, signed in Warsaw last week, foresees the construction of four SMRs with a capacity of 77 megawatts (MW) each by the end of 2030. But there is also room to expand the number of units to 12., that would generate approximately 1 gigawatt (GW) of electricity.
Chludzinski believes that the project, the costs of which have yet to be finalized, could have the side effect of making KGHM a net power producer. But he claims that was not the purpose of the operation.
“We are not going to go from a copper producer to an energy company. We are mainly focused on copper ”, it sounds. “But we have to be self-sufficient in energy, and if we have more energy than we need, we sell it.”
A great attraction of SMR reactors is that they can be factory built and then shipped. Therefore, more can be added as energy demand increases.
The reactors have a capacity of between 50 and 300 MW, but can be combined to form a power plant of up to 1,000 MW. Furthermore, a defect in one of the modules can be repaired without completely stopping operations. This reduces both the environmental risk and the cost of the project, which are often criticized by energy companies and opponents of nuclear energy.
Of course, opponents of nuclear power will also be opponents of SMRs. Therefore, Geert Verbong, a professor at the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU / e), is not convinced. “The fact is, these kinds of SMR reactors have never been used on a large scale anywhere,” he says in independent journalism. Origins of innovation. “They are still in the experimental phase. Furthermore, they face the same problems as large existing and new generation nuclear power plants. That means that the opponents do not see any sense in it, “he concludes.
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