Poland NCBJ report concludes small modular reactors unlikely to play key role as basic electricity source in Poland
A new report published by Poland’s National Center for Nuclear Research (Narodowe Centrum Badań Jądrowych, NCBJ) concludes that while small modular reactor (SMR) nuclear power plants (NPPs) might become important for Polish power industry, it is very unlikely that they will ever play a key role as basic electricity source in Poland. SMRs might appear in a rather long term perspective, not before 2030.
In November 2012, the US government allocated $425 million for a project to develop SMR by Babcock&Wilcox. (Earlier post.) Similar actions are being undertaken in Europe. The Sustainable Nuclear Energy Technology Platform is an association of power reactor manufacturers, NPP operators, Nuclear Regulatory Commission bodies from various countries, and R&D institutions formed to stipulate engineering works conducted in such collaborations as EUROPAIRS, ARCHER, or NC2I-R.
NCBJ is coordinating the latter works. The idea of small modular reactors (e.g. High Temperature Reactors that might co-generate electricity and heat) is pursued jointly with some partners from the country and abroad (Mining & Metallurgy Academy AGH in Cracow, Prochem, Warsaw University of Technology). The proposal on that subject was evaluated as one of the highest-ranked one among all Euratom-submitted proposals (it scored 14 out of maximum 15 points).
The financial negotiations phase is yet to be faced, nevertheless it is expected that NCBJ will reach agreement with European Commission within a few coming weeks. The HTR-PL Polish programme coordinated by AGH and financed by NCBiR (National Centre for Research and Development) Polish government agency supplements the NC2I-R program.
SMR reactors will not be commercially available soon. In Poland, some SMR technology for commercial plants will probably not be selected before after 2022, while building permit for the first SMR plant will be issued around 2025, and the plant may be put into operation around 2030.
Investment outlays per unit power are in case of small SMRs substantially higher than those necessary in case of any “classical” NPP; as a result, SMR small modular reactors are not going to replace high-power reactors, the report finds.
Our government’s policy is to develop in Poland by 2030 nuclear reactors of a combined electric power [of] 6000 MW. A few tens of SMR reactors would be needed to attain that power level. Such a large number of SMRs would be not only economically unjustified, but also technically unfeasible.
Besides, since safety is an absolute priority issue, we in Poland are going to deploy only such reactors that can demonstrate record of successful operation in other countries, have been verified in detail during the recently concluded stress test programme, and meet the most stringent safety standards. Therefore they will be the 3rd generation reactors.—Professor Andrzej Strupczewski, NCBJ Nuclear Safety Chairman
On the other hand, SMR reactors may be valuable supplements to power system workhorses in special circumstances. For example, they might be perfect for places located far from national power grid (north territories of Russia, Alaska in USA) or in small countries of small total power demand where high-power units are difficult to use because of an imbalance of the national power grid they introduce. In Poland they might be used by large industrial plants or by municipal central heating systems as sources of heat. If Poland is to be among the first beneficiaries of that new technology, a program of R&D works in that field should be started right now, according to the NCBJ.