The Polish government wants to start producing nuclear energy in 2033 and has agreed to deals with the US and France. But Germany is increasingly alarmed by its neighbor’s energy plans.
Poland is working towards reducing its dependence on coal and forging ahead with plans to start producing nuclear energy. Its Polityka Energetczna Polski (PEP) strategy, which the government approved earlier this month and is set to begin in 2026, includes the construction of six reactors in two locations. According to the plan, the first reactor will begin operation in 2033 and all six should be up and running by 2043.
The EU member has to find new sources of energy in order to meet the bloc’s climate, energy and environmental targets. Poland currently depends on coal for 70% of its energy and is thus one of the most polluting EU states.
But Poland’s energy transition is not driven by external pressure alone. Brown coal mining in central Poland, which currently supplies 20% of the country’s energy, is set to be phased out by 2035.
There will also be a shortage of natural gas after an agreement with Russia expires at the end of next year. Russian gas currently covers 5% of Poland’s energy needs. But because of its rising cost and political tensions with Moscow, Warsaw does not want to extend the agreement.
A seemingly perfect solution
Nuclear reactors are considered by many to be the perfect solution. Plans to develop nuclear energy go back to the 1970s and construction had begun on two reactors of Soviet design in Zarnowiec, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) northwest of Gdansk, but was stopped after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. All subsequent attempts to relaunch the project failed. Now, the new reactors will probably be built in Zarnowiec and nearby Lubiatowo-Kopalino.
However, Poland cannot fund the reactors, whose capacity will be six to nine gigawatts and which are estimated to cost €30 billion ($36 billion). Last year, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that the ideal partners for the project, both in terms of technology transfer and funds, would be “proven partners from NATO and the western world.” […]
Poland’s plans are already causing resentment in neighboring Germany. According to an expert report commissioned by the Green Party’s parliamentary faction in the German Bundestag in January, the Polish nuclear power plants, just a few hundred kilometers from the German border, would pose a high risk to the population.
“Experts evaluated everything on the basis of weather data over the past three years. There is a 20% probability that Germany would be affected by an accident at the planned nuclear power plant,” the chairwoman of the Bundestag Committee on the Environment, Ursula Kotting-Uhl, told DW. “In the worst-case scenario, 1.8 million Germans would be exposed to radiation of over 20 millisieverts. At that level, we would have to start evacuating. Berlin and Hamburg could be affected, which are densely populated.”