Poland's Present Outlook on Nuclear Energy

Tyreke White
February 7, 2017

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2017


Fig. 1: Cherenkov Radiation viewed inside of the MARIA reactor located near Świerk- Otwock, Poland. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

In 2015, roughly 80% of gross energy generated in Poland was produced by coal. [1] With coal's precipitously increasing costs compared to other technologies worldwide, Poland's increasing domestic energy demand (forecasts put electricity consumption at 30% greater than 2013 levels), and more stringent European climate policy targets in CO2 reductions, Poland is forced to look at other opportunities to diversify its energy portfolio. [2] Initially a fantasy after the incidents that unfolded in Chernobyl, nuclear energy has quickly become a reality in Poland. The initial project approved on January 28, 2014 by the previous administration set optimistic sights on 2024 as the year in which the first reactor would be fully functional, but this target has since slipped as the current government responds to the changing energy landscape. [1,3]

Investment Challenges

In December 2014 PGE (Polska Grupa Energetyczna) noted that realistic targets for both nuclear units had been updated to after 2025. The reasoning that they cited was primarily financial: a contractual deal with Australian engineering company, WorleyParsons, fell through because the process of locating viable locations for the power plant were taking prolonged amounts of time. [4] Moreover, polish governmental officials generally foresee fossil fuels as a significant component of the future energy mix, even though 40% of some existing coal plants are more than 40 years old and will require substantial capital investment to update. [5] Coupled with the large amounts of capital needed to finance nuclear power plant construction ($10 - 15 million), the government must be strategic about its monetary investments in energy efforts. [4]

Poland has both the capacity and expertise for nuclear technology. It possesses a research reactor in Świerk-Otwock (see Fig. 1) used primarily for radioactive isotope fabrication. But rollout at a commercial level will be based solely on governmental and industry cooperation as well as financial guarantees.

The Uphill Battle: Securing Energy

By far the most important priority for the polish government is securing the country's long-term energy supply as well as choosing appropriate energy sources that can curb CO2 emissions. The electric power current transmission system is in poor working condition, resulting in frequent blackouts, and the net electric efficiency of current power plants in Poland is 32.5%, while it hovers around 41.5% in other European Union-15 countries. [5] Such concerns have forced the government to look at other sources of energy that both meet CO2 emissions targets and increasing demand and can be used in concert with nuclear. Nuclear energy generation is not enough, however. If Poland wants to adequately meet energy demands and policy emissions constraints over the next decade, it will need to begin heavily investing in renewable energy resources. [5]

Moving Forward

Poland's initial optimistic plans for nuclear have been curtailed in favor of further securing domestic energy supply as well as determining the optimal financing strategy for capital-intensive power plant updating and construction. While the country expresses continued support of nuclear energy integration, the challenge lies in finding the most seamless way to slowly phase out coal and implement nuclear as well as phase in renewable generation sources. However, nuclear's advantages over coal will be regularly measured, and implementation strategies will continue to evolve to match Poland's ever-changing landscape.

© Tyreke White. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] "A Different Energiewende," The Economist, 8 Feb 14.

[2] "Polish Nuclear Power Program," Polish Ministry of Economy, January 2011.

[3] A. Ligel, "Green Light for Poland's First Nuclear Power Program" Stanford University, March 2014.

[4] A. Barteczko and A. Koper, "Poland's Nuclear Project Pushed Back at Least Another Two Years," Reuters, 14 Apr 15.

[5] K. Polanecký and J. Haverkamp, "Energy of the Future?" Heinrich Böll Foundation, February 2011.