The fuel and raw material price crisis that Poland, as well as other European Union countries are facing now, has revealed years of neglect in the energy sector. In Poland, these include the lack of its own nuclear power plants. Almost all politicians of the parties present in the Sejm understand this today. The Warsaw Enterprise Institute’s position is that the Polish government should take advantage of this unique agreement across party lines and take definite steps to build large nuclear units. This would start with the most obvious thing: naming a contractor through a tender. The government should also encourage private investors to build smaller nuclear units, known as SMRs. Nuclear power will not only enable independence from Russian raw materials, but will also make the implementation of climate policies imposed on Poland by the EU less severe.
In recent times, we have sorely experienced how disastrous reliance on Russia is. The energy crisis, manifested in the limited availability of gas and drastic price hikes, has made it clear that Europe must find alternative, stable sources of energy, and that wind, photovoltaic or geothermal power plants are not enough to meet energy needs. As a result, atom, zero-emission and environmentally friendly, is returning to favor. For many years, irrational fears led to the extinction of existing nuclear facilities and prevented the creation of new ones.
Energy independence is a sine qua non for ensuring the stability of European economies. Poland in particular, as a country bordering Ukraine, must look after its energy interests. Moreover, we are, like the rest of Europe, in the midst of a transition aimed at achieving climate neutrality. While renewable energy sources are developing rapidly, the gradual shift away from coal will create a stabilization gap that must be replaced with an alternative resource.
Stabilization can be achieved through nuclear power, which will provide the necessary volume of energy relatively easily and quickly. Current technologies range from traditional reactors with a capacity of more than 1,000 MW to modern, emerging SMR (small modular reactor) technologies with a capacity of up to 500 MW. Work is also underway on smaller MMR (micro modular reactor) reactors of less than 100 MW.
Nuclear sources have a number of advantages, first and foremost they provide stability to the energy system for years – their effective operating time is at least half a century. They are profitable over their total lifetime, so a multi-year stable price for the energy derived from them can be calculated, safeguarding the interests of industry and consumers. Nuclear sources are recognized by the Commission and the European Parliament as low-carbon, which makes it possible to achieve the goals and creates opportunities for EU co-financing of such a project.
Nuclear energy, which is associated with spectacular accidents through Chernobyl or Fukushima, should not be feared. Current technology and modern safety systems ensure long-term, safe and trouble-free operation of reactors. This makes it possible to harmoniously move away from fossil fuels and complement modern energy based on green generation sources.
In the opinion of the Warsaw Enterprise Institute, it is necessary to take advantage of the existing consensus and establish nuclear power facilities in Poland. Any action should be preceded by an in-depth analysis, the selection of technology (SMRs and MMRs can be active elements of distributed energy) or a partner or partners to implement the investment. Providing Poland with a stable, secure and Russia-independent source of energy is currently a top priority.