Energy Nuclear 16 November, 2020 8:30 am   

Biden will not change the nuclear energy deal with Poland


There is a lot of speculation on America’s energy policy after Joe Biden’s victory, but its mills grind slowly, albeit consistently. Americans, who may build Poland’s nuclear power plant, are also trying to secure another nuclear deal in Europe – writes Wojciech Jakóbik, editor in chief at
The media have reported that the consortium headed by America’s Bechtel is in talks on engaging in a nuclear power plant project in Wylfa Newydd in Great Britain on the Angelsey island in Wales. The investment is estimated at GBP 20 billion, but so far it has not received any financing model despite talks between the developer – Horizon, Hitachi’s daughter company, and the government in London. Bechtel has been engaged in the project since the beginning, and in 2015, as part of a joint venture with Hitachi Nuclear Energy Europe and Japan Gas Corporation, it started preparing the NPP’s design. The venture is called Meter Newydd, which means “a new enterprise” in Welsh. The plan was to use two ABWR reactors that are utilized in Japanese NPPs. However, since January 2019 the project has been suspended because the talks on financing it with the British government have failed.

It is possible that the negotiations will restart if a new technology is on the table. Bechtel joined forces with Southern Company and Westinghouse, which are chasing after new contracts in Europe. In 2021 the technical and financing model for the Polish Nuclear Power Programme is supposed to be ready, which should allow Warsaw to make its final decision on whether to cooperate with Americans. They have engaged in the expansion of the Cernavodă Nuclear Power Plant in Romania and came up with an adequate financial model. It looks like they want to invest in Great Britain by offering AP 1000 reactors. According to the Financial Times, the American consortium wants to offer an analogous construction schedule to Horizon’s, but at a competitive price. The future of this cooperation depends on the government in London.

There is a lot of speculation on whether the U.S. will pivot towards renewable energy sources under Joe Biden’s administration, and on how such a decision would impact nuclear plans. Still, they will probably remain intact, because even a radical climate policy in the United Sates will not stop Westinghouse and other companies from signing new contracts to build NPPs. Moreover, it may turn out that America’s energy policy will be managed by Ernest Moniz, a tried and tested supporter of nuclear power and Barack Obama’s energy secretary. During a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, which probably took place at a moment when the Polish-U.S. talks on the construction of an NPP had already started, he talked about the necessity to maintain the standing of the U.S. nuclear sector, which is starting to lose with China and Russia. “The loss of market share will undermine America’s leading role in international nonproliferation regimes,” he warned. He also talked about the necessity to maintain staff and the national supply chain for the nuclear energy sector. This means America has to construct NPPs abroad to, among others, protect its long-term security interests. This probably won’t change regardless of Joe Biden’s policies. By the way, Moniz is a renown nuclear physicist.

In September we wrote on that Poland would sign an agreement that would give Warsaw time to decide who would build its NPP. So far, its actions suggest it prefers the Americans. However, when engaging in projects in Europe, the U.S. is open to teaming up with other partners. I wrote about this in 2017 on Americans are expanding a nuclear power plant in Romania together with France’s EDF. They tried to do the same with the Japanese in Great Britain. It is possible they will find a partner to work with in Poland, provided Warsaw will give them the green light.