Poland May Want US Firms to Buy Equity Stake in Nuclear Project, Tusk’s Aide Says

image is BloomburgMedia_S460S7DWRGG001_17-11-2023_11-11-22_638357760000000000.jpg

Nuclear power plant cooling towers. Photographer: Timothy Fadek/Bloomberg

Poland’s incoming administration wants foreign companies in the country’s nascent nuclear energy program to buy an equity stake in the venture.

Grzegorz Onichimowski, the chief energy adviser to the Civic Platform party, said the already chosen US partners, Westinghouse Electric Co. and Bechtel Group Inc., should take at least a 30% equity stake in the project. The current plan, inked by the outgoing cabinet, didn’t include any capital injections by the companies.

“Nuclear energy, which enjoys significant public support, is essential for the success of Poland’s energy transition,” Onichimowski said in written comments to Bloomberg. “However, we are aware of the risks related to such a project, that’s why it would be desirable for our partner/supplier to take a capital stake.”

In a bid to boost its energy security, transition away from coal and strengthen ties with the US, the Polish government picked Westinghouse and Bechtel to design and construct the country’s first atomic-power reactors. Civic Platform leader Donald Tusk, tipped to be the next prime minister after his opposition bloc won last month’s election, has made it clear he’s keen on working with the US on the project. 

Community of Interests

Andrzej Domanski, a Civic Platform lawmaker and economic expert, echoed similar sentiment about the desire for equity engagement by the companies, telling Radio Zet on Friday that the size of their stake was up for discussion.

Tusk, a former president of the European Council, said on Nov. 6 that Poland had to pursue nuclear energy “as quickly as possible” for both economic and political reasons. About 70% of Poland’s power still comes from coal, the biggest share in any European Union member nation.

“We must build this community of economic interests with the US and bind American and Polish interests in a friendly and solid way, because we don’t know what the geopolitical situation will look like in a year or two,” Tusk told supporters in Wroclaw when discussing nuclear power.

Poland’s outgoing administration planned to build 6-9 gigawatts in nuclear power by the 2040s, including three AP1000 reactors from Westinghouse. The program’s financing hasn’t been agreed, with the price tag for the first plant seen at at least $20 billion.

Onichimowski said, however, that Poland may not need so much nuclear capacity. “It would be ideal to build two power plants. The first with the Americans and the second, perhaps, with another partner,” he said.

Electricite de France SA and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co Ltd have long been interested in nuclear projects in Poland, with the Asian company already in talks on a separate deal with a private Polish partner. 

Ambitious Plan

The current government initially wanted its foreign partners to purchase equity stakes of up to 49% but backed out. Instead, the proposal sees Westinghouse and Bechtel helping secure debt financing for the project from the Export-Import Bank of the US.

The incoming coalition sees nuclear energy as part of its ambitious plan to phase out coal, with zero-emission power sources expected to account for 68% of electricity generation by the end of the decade. The road map, co-designed by Onichimowski, also sees no coal heating in households beyond 2030.

In a policy agreement signed by the future ruling parties this month, they highlighted the need to speed up the green revolution. Onichimowski wants to loosen onshore wind farm rules to help kick-start the energy overhaul.

The approach contrasts with that of the outgoing cabinet, which has blamed EU climate policies for high electricity prices and pledged to keep coal mines digging until 2049, pleasing the country’s power mining unions.

(Adds comment by Civic Platform economic expert in paragraph 5)

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.

By Agnieszka Barteczko , Maciej Martewicz


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