Poland: Nuclear Power Partner

By Ian Wong
Ian Wong is an intern with USTDA’s Public Affairs team and a rising senior at the University of California, Berkeley.

Poland has historically relied on coal-fired power but has recently adopted ambitious measures to phase out its use. As the country transitions toward cleaner alternatives, USTDA offered support for the Polish government’s most ambitious and consequential power sector investment in a generation.  

Along with the development of renewable sources of energy, Poland’s Ministry of Climate and Environment and the Government Plenipotentiary for Strategic Energy Infrastructure are leading the execution of a civil nuclear power program that will be a significant part of the country’s plan to reduce its dependence on coal in favor of emissions-free power generation. As the U.S. government’s overseas project preparation agency, USTDA built a coalition of U.S. public and private sector partners that will help Poland meet this goal by developing the country’s first nuclear power plants by 2043.

Specifically, USTDA is funding a front-end engineering and design (“FEED”) study to support the Polish government’s decision-making process for the deployment of six reactors. This requirement for project preparation work fit squarely within USTDA’s source of global expertise. And it fit within the Agency’s growing prioritization of emissions-free power generation under its Global Partnership for Climate-Smart Infrastructure, which President Biden launched during the 2021 Leader’s Climate Summit.

USTDA formalized its funding support for the FEED study in June 2021. The U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs both contributed funding toward USTDA’s grant award.

The enabling environment for this bilateral cooperation was set in an intergovernmental agreement on civil nuclear power that entered into force on February 24, 2021. Among the priorities defined in the agreement are the steps that Poland and the United States will take to strengthen Poland’s energy security and reduce emissions through the civil nuclear power program, which centers on the development of the six new reactors.

“USTDA’s grant provides early-stage funding that is critical to realizing the goals of the intergovernmental agreement; the detailed technical and financial information that will result from the FEED study is essential to securing non-sovereign financing,” said Chelsea Gunter, Assistant General Counsel for USTDA.  

A pair of U.S. nuclear industry leaders will carry out the FEED study: Pennsylvania-based Westinghouse Electric Company and Virginia-based Bechtel Power Corporation. Each company is contributing additional resources toward the study’s completion, creating a public-private partnership in the civil nuclear power sector that is largely without precedent here in the United States.

When the FEED study is completed, PEJ will have preliminary plot plans for the location of the first nuclear power plant; a strategic licensing plan; a project schedule; and a budgetary cost estimate for delivery, construction and start-up of Poland’s first nuclear power plant.

Bringing together an impressive coalition of U.S. public and private sector partners, while also working with counterparts abroad, is by no means an easy task. “It was truly a whole of government approach that involved close collaboration between USTDA and its U.S. government partners, as well as U.S. private sector and Polish partners, over the course of eighteen months,” said Mary Sloan, USTDA’s Country Manager for North Africa, Europe and Eurasia. “Remarkably, the numerous hours of work and close coordination between partners was achieved in an entirely virtual environment due to COVID-19 restrictions, which speaks to the importance USTDA and its partners place on supporting Poland in the development of its civil nuclear energy power program.”

Although this project is anything but ordinary, it is completely aligned with USTDA’s unique brand of project preparation-based foreign assistance: (1) the development of six new reactors has the potential to generate significant exports of U.S. goods and services, which will support good-paying U.S. jobs in the civil nuclear power sector; (2) Poland will become more energy secure with a clean, reliable source of power that will support economic growth for decades to come; and (3) the project will have a significantly positive impact on the environment.

USTDA looks forward to these many benefits to the environment and the people of Poland and the United States that will flow from this exciting partnership.