Poland presses on with nuclear power debut

21st September 2011, Comments 0 comments

Poland is pressing on with its nuclear power debut by launching a technology tender valued at 25 billion euros ($34 billion) later this year, the state-owned energy group Polska Grupa Energetyczna (PGE) said on Wednesday.

"The tender to choose a technology provider will take place in the fourth quarter of this year," Marta Lau, PGE spokeswoman told AFP in a recent interview.

Poland, which joined the EU in 2004, currently depends on coal for 94 percent of its electricity and is bound by the bloc's climate package to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020 compared to the 1990 level.

To feed its growing economy's appetite for energy, it has opted to build the two atomic power facilities by that deadline.

PGE is to host a closed-door meeting for interested global nuclear energy players this week in Warsaw.

France's EDF and Areva, the US-Japanese Westinghouse Electric Company LLC and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Americas, a US-Japanese consortium, are expected to attend.

"We are expecting Poland to present the legislative framework for the bidding process, the qualification criteria and the financing model for the programme," Areva Poland director Adam Rozwadowski told AFP.

"Up to now the Polish programme is moving ahead very nicely. Parliament unanimously passed the nuclear power legislation in June as well as the law on investments applying to the construction of atomic facilities," he said.

PGE is also launching a tender for offers on a location for the first Polish power plant -- three are already being considered.

A third tender process on the engineering of the project is also in the offing.

Warsaw's nuclear power ambitions are a strategic choice. According to a government study on energy policy to 2030, Poland wants to overcome energy dependence on any single supplier and meet EU carbon limits, a task made all the more difficult by its heavy dependence on carbon.

Natural gas from the Russia covers 40 percent of Poland annual consumption, 30 percent of its needs are served by domestic supplies and the balance is imported from other countries.

Experts warn that as Poland is slowly expanding its power plant network amid steady growth in demand, it could suffer shortages as soon as 2016-2020.

But in the wake of Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster, public support for Warsaw's atomic power ambitions is waning.

While 39 percent of Poles opposed nuclear power in September 2010, the figure rose to 53 percent after the Fukushima nuclear meltdown, according to the independent Warsaw-based CBOS pollsters.

Over the same period the number of supporters has dropped from 46 percent to 40 percent while those who are undecided declined from 15 to 7 percent.

Poland's state treasury controls a majority 69.29 percent of PGE, with the remaining 30.71 in public trading.

It is Poland's largest power producer relying mainly on lignite or brown coal and to a lesser extend hard coal for its power supplies servicing a combined five million households, businesses and institutions, according to the PGE website.

© 2011 AFP

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