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The Warsaw Voice » Business » December 21, 2012
Business & Economy
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Poland’s Nuclear Energy Ambitions Scrutinized
December 21, 2012   
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Nuclear energy is safe, clean and cost-effective, argued government officials and supporters of plans to build Poland’s first nuclear power plant who attended an international conference in Warsaw.

Some 160 speakers and guests, including British, Japanese and French diplomats, took part in the Nov. 29 International Forum on Nuclear Energy, organized by The Warsaw Voice, to debate issues such as safety after the Fukushima power plant disaster in Japan last year.

Faced with growing demand for electricity and with international obligations that require it to replace energy sources that generate harmful emissions, Poland plans to build its first nuclear power plant by around 2023. A second power plant, with a similar capacity of around 3,000 MW, is due to be built later.

‘Important, but no panacea’

According to Hanna Trojanowska, deputy economy minister and the Polish government’s commissioner for nuclear energy, the launch of a total of 6,000 MW of installed nuclear power capacity in Poland will make it possible to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 47 million metric tons per year in comparison to energy produced from fossil fuels.

Trojanowska told the Warsaw conference: “Nuclear energy is not a panacea for all our energy problems but it’s a very important part of the solution.”

She added: “The nuclear power plant-building program in Poland could prove a motor that powers the development of the country and improve the innovation and competitiveness of the Polish economy as a whole.”

Andrzej Boroń, general secretary of the Association of Polish Engineers, told the conference that nuclear power is an environmentally-friendly form of energy. “Nuclear power is also cheap energy, much cheaper than wind and solar energy,” he said.

Boroń added that a nuclear energy program is “a strategic solution to ensure energy security for Poland for many years.”

According to Boroń, “Coal supplies will last about 40 years and something will have to be done after that.”

‘Government propaganda’

But Dariusz Szwed, chairman of Poland’s Green Party 2004 and a lone voice at the conference opposing nuclear power, said Polish society was against nuclear energy “despite government propaganda” and a “totally ineffective” official public relations campaign focusing on nuclear power.

He suggested that the Polish government was going against the tide. Poland’s neighbor Germany, along with Switzerland and Belgium, have decided to shut down their nuclear power plants and to spend money on renewable energy instead. Meanwhile, France aims to cut the share of nuclear power in its energy mix to 50 percent by around 2025.

Bob Pearce, Director of International Project Development for the AP1000 reactor at U.S.-based Westinghouse Electric Company, a leading international supplier of nuclear technology, insisted that modern nuclear technology was safe.

“We have had to make no changes as a result of stress tests or a result of post-Fukushima reviews. The design of our reactor was already robust against the kind of issues” seen in Fukushima, he said, referring to last year’s earthquake, which unleashed a tsunami that swamped Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant, causing the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986.

Meanwhile, northern Europe “is quiet in terms of seismic events,” added pearce, whose company designed over half of the world’s nuclear power reactors.

Support of Church ‘vital’

Anna Nietyksza, president of the management board of EFICOM, a group of companies specializing in business consulting and investment, said that 54 percent of Poles currently view nuclear energy negatively.

An effective campaign is needed to win skeptics over, while Poland’s powerful Catholic Church needs to play a key role, she argued.

“Without winning over the Church and persuading them that nuclear energy is safe, we won’t have nuclear power plants in Poland,” Nietyksza said.

Addressing concerns about whether there was stable political support in Poland for nuclear energy, Andrzej Czerwiński, a deputy and chairman of the Parliamentary Group for Energy, told the conference that most Polish members of parliament support nuclear power.

“We have six political parties [in parliament] and only one—one of the smaller parties— says nuclear energy is not needed,” Czerwiński said.

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