Environmental permitting of Polish SMR plant progresses

05 February 2024

Orlen Synthos Green Energy (OSGE) can now begin environmental and siting research for its planned small modular reactor (SMR) project in Stawy Monowskie, in Małopolska, Poland, after the country's General Director for Environmental Protection (GDOŚ) issued the scope of the environmental report for the project.

The planned site of the SMR power plant in Stawy Monowskie (Image: OSGE)

In mid-April 2023, OSGE announced it had shortlisted seven locations in Poland for further geological surveys to host SMR plants based on GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy's BWRX-300, for which it holds the exclusive right in Poland. The locations were: Ostrołęka, Włocławek, Stawy Monowskie, Dąbrowa Górnicza, Nowa Huta, Tarnobrzeg Special Economic Zone and Warsaw.

OSGE submitted applications in late-April to the Ministry of Climate and Environment for decisions-in-principle on the construction of power plants at six locations, omitting Warsaw from the list. The ministry issued decisions-in-principle for the six plants on 7 December. The decision-in-principle is the first decision in the process of administrative permits for investments in nuclear power facilities in Poland that an investor may apply for. Obtaining it entitles OSGE to apply for a number of further administrative arrangements, such as a siting decision or construction licence.

OSGE submitted an application to GDOŚ in May 2023 to determine the scope of the report on the environmental impact of the construction of the Stawy Monowskie plant. Last year it also submitted applications for the planned plants in Ostrołęka and Włocławek.

GDOŚ has now issued a decision specifying the requirements for the project in Stawy Monowskie. It indicated the main areas that the report will cover, including: conducting a natural inventory, identifying possible sources of cooling water, technological solutions that affect nuclear safety and radiological protection, and indicating how the power plant will be integrated with the energy transmission network.

"This is the first such decision in the entire European Union and another important step in the process of building BWRX-300 reactors in Poland," OSGE said. "The scope of such a document is determined for individual projects, taking into account the specificity of the location. The issuance of the decision by GDOŚ enables the company to commence environmental and location tests in the Stawy Monowskie location to the full extent necessary to prepare the Environmental Impact Assessment report. The time needed to prepare the report is estimated at up to two years."

"Preparing a report on the environmental impact of a nuclear investment is one of the most important elements of the investment process," said Rafał Kasprów, President of the Management Board of OSGE. "And also one of the most difficult. We are even more pleased with the good cooperation with the General Directorate for Environmental Protection and the regulator's professional approach to the first environmental proceedings in the entire EU regarding the construction of an SMR power plant.

"Today's decision of GDOŚ allows us to maintain the assumed project implementation schedules and gives us a chance to complete the investment when the Polish economy will be most in need of zero-emission and stable energy sources."

The BWRX-300 is a 300 MWe water-cooled, natural circulation SMR with passive safety systems that leverages the design and licensing basis of GEH's US Nuclear Regulatory Commission-certified ESBWR boiling water reactor design and its existing, licensed GNF2 fuel design, a unique combination that GEH says positions it to deliver an "innovative, carbon-free baseload power generation source" this decade.

In December 2021, GE Hitachi, BWXT Canada and Synthos Green Energy (SGE) signed a Letter of Intent to cooperate in deploying BWRX-300 SMRs in Poland. OSGE - a joint venture between chemical producers SGE and PKN Orlen - submitted an application to Poland's National Atomic Energy Agency (PAA) on 8 July 2022 for the assessment of the reactor design. PAA announced in May last year that the BWRX-300 is compliant with Polish nuclear safety and radiological protection standards.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News