From the Editor
April 7, 2010 By Andrzej Ratajczyk
THE FUTURE IS NUCLEAR
The government has selected the northern town of Żarnowiec as its preferred location for Poland's first nuclear power plant, which could start producing electricity in 2020. The decision marks a major step forward in the country's atomic energy plans, which have been marked by U-turns, protests and years of delay.
The Ministry of the Economy March 16 unveiled a list of potential locations for a nuclear power plant. Among the 27 towns considered by the ministry's experts, Żarnowiec (Pomerania province) emerged as the preferred location, followed by Warta-Klempicz (Wielkopolska), Kopań (Pomerania) and Nowe Miasto (Mazovia). The final choice will be up to the investor, Polska Grupa Energetyczna SA (PGE), after thorough research. PGE plans to build two nuclear power plants with a capacity of about 3,000 MW each. Under a preliminary schedule, the first power unit at the first power plant could be completed by the end of 2020, with more units to follow every two or three years.
In OECD countries, there are 350 operating nuclear power plants, generating over 20 percent of power consumed. Nuclear power plants are stable sources of electricity with practically no carbon dioxide emissions. Supporters say they are safe as long as they are built to the highest standards.
Forecasts say that as the Polish economy develops in the coming years, it will need much more electricity than it uses today.
Supporters of nuclear power say it will improve the country's energy security and help diversify energy sources. However, this will not change the fact that the Polish power sector will still be based on coal.
Construction of a nuclear power plant in Żarnowiec started in the early 1980s. It was to have been the first step in Poland's nuclear power program, which also envisaged the construction of the Warta nuclear power plant in the town of Klempicz. But the political and economic changes after the fall of communism in 1989 and determined protests by environmentalists as well as public hostility, which sharpened in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster 24 years ago, led to construction being halted.
This time no public protests were in evidence after the government unveiled its list of potential nuclear power plant sites. Polls show that a vast majority of residents in areas where nuclear power plants could be built have nothing against such projects. Local officials are keen on nuclear power, promising various forms of support to investors. Fears of nuclear energy, and of another disaster like Chernobyl, have waned, and the public is better informed, commentators say. Local communities believe nuclear power plants will bring benefits, especially stable and well-paid jobs.