The first protest against a proper nuclear power plant in Poland is brewing. It has the support of political forces with an electoral mandate. The public debate allows for different voices, but it should exclude extremism in line with the Kremlin’s expectations – writes Wojciech Jakóbik, editor-in-chief at BiznesAlert.pl.
The Polish anti-nuclear movement is brewing
The Poles have not yet developed an anti-nuclear movement on the scale known from Austria or Germany. But that doesn’t mean it won’t sprout. The construction of a nuclear power plant for which preparations have begun has become a starting point for a public debate. However, it is not always rational.
BiznesAlert.pl confirmed on January 27 that opponents of Poland’s first NPP would hold a press conference by the Polish Sejm scheduled for January 31st at 11 a.m. They are expected to present an open letter to activists and scientists who oppose the nuclear power plant in Poland. They are everybody to the press conference. “The country’s energy policy, including support for nuclear energy, has become the subject of criticism. We believe that the construction of nuclear power plants in Poland should not take place,” the organization wrote. The open letter to the chairmen of parties, clubs and parliamentary caucuses was signed by 37 respected authorities from the world of science, politics and environmental organizations, as well as 20 non – governmental organizations,” the organizers who work under the banner of EKO-Unia said.
“During the last session, the Sejm adopted the Special Act on Support for Nuclear Energy, which passed with the support of the Law and Jutice, as well as the vast majority of MPs and members of the parliamentary opposition,” the EKO-Unia activists stated. “The country’s energy policy, including support for nuclear energy, has become the subject of criticism. We believe that the construction of nuclear power plants in Poland should not take place,” the organization wrote. The open letter to the presidents of parties, clubs and parliamentary caucuses was signed by 37 respected authorities from the world of science, politics as well as 20 non-governmental organizations.
The Special Act on the Nuclear Power Plant aims to accelerate the construction of the atom in Poland so that the tight deadline for putting the first reactor into operation in 2033 can be met. It involves parallel work on several administrative procedures, which I previously wrote about on BiznesAlert.pl. If the resistance of the anti-nuclear movement resulted in these regulations being revised, the atom would be delayed, and Poles would stay hooked on coal and natural gas longer. In other words, the actions taken by the opponents of the NPP would keep up Poland’s dependence on fossil fuels that the activists are against. In addition, if there is a demand for a referendum, it should be remembered that such a move in Lithuania stopped the atom in Visaginas irrevocably.
Will the Polish anti-nuclear movement be anti-American?
Importantly, the letter was signed, among others, by representatives of Greenpeace Polska, who so far have not presented such a radical approach to the atom in Poland. They also had a moderate approach to another strategic project, the Baltic Pipe gas pipeline. One can suspect that these organizations are radicalizing their message. According to scoop acquired by BiznesAlert.pl during the event, there may be anti-American rhetoric directed against the partners of the Polish Nuclear Energy Program, i.e. Bechtel and Westinghouse from the USA. Atom is to be presented as an economically unprofitable solution and less favorable than the alternative, i.e. 100 percent renewable energy. Reportedly the movement is supported by some MPs from the Civic Coalition, including the Green party, which is the only anti-nuclear party in the Polish Sejm and cooperates on this topic with the movement in Germany, which is revealed in the protests against the Polish atom supported by MPs from Germany.
“This German protest is an interference in the public debate about the first nuclear power plant in Poland,” said Stanisław Żaryn, spokesman for the Special Services Coordinator. “The activities of the German Greens in the information sphere are aimed at destabilizing this ambitious project. In recent weeks, we have seen a greater intensity of coordinated actions by the Russian media – including the Kremlin’s mouthpieceses – aimed at the Polish Nuclear Power Programme. The activities of the German side in this case may have the same purpose as the Russians,” the spokesman concluded. It is worth recalling that apart from the Greens, political parties in Poland are still in favor of nuclear power, including the Civic Coalition.
The germinating anti-nuclear movement could be likened to the anti-shale gas crusade, which bogged down the discussions on regulations for foreign investors for five years, in result of which Poland missed the shale rush. A democratic society allows various arguments in public debate, as long as they are substantive and do not promote extremism. This is all the more important in the face of the conventional war in Ukraine and the energy crisis, which is the unconventional face of the same conflict directed against the West. It is worth recalling that at that time the protests presented as a grassroots movement organized by local communities were supported by forces outside the location of the investment.
Debate or extremism in line with the Kremlin’s expectations?
It is apparent that arguments which lack merit seep into the discussion on onshore wind farms, for instance stories about the technology having a detrimental impact on human health. Similar conspiracy theories about nuclear energy, US lobbying, nuclear disasters or environmental devastation may emerge in the Polish debate about the atom. The groundwork can be laid down by the lands in east Germany that are against reactors in Poland’s Pomerania, and rather baseless arguments from the debates in Germany, which included, e.g. a vision of a radioactive cloud that will definitely arrive to Germany from Poland. This and other conspiracy theories, which are already being regurgitated in our country, among others by the Baltic SOS, have already been questioned by the future operator of the atom, i.e. Polish Nuclear Power Plants. Nevertheless, the Baltic SOS reportedly signed the said letter. This is the most radical anti-nuclear protest group in Poland that BiznesAlert.pl has looked into.
More dialogue is needed to alleviate the understandable concerns of the residents, but the intelligence services need to pay extra attention to attempts at radicalizing anti-nuclear movements. It is worth looking at the example of Germany again. German counterintelligence openly claims that environmental movements can be intercepted by left-wing extremists and they may work not in the interests of the residents, but in the interests of the Kremlin, which benefits from Europe’s dependence on fossil fuels, which would drop thanks to nuclear power.
The European Commission has allowed nuclear energy in the taxonomy as a source of stabilizing the energy transition. Political consensus on this issue in Europe was possible, among other things, thanks to the dialogue of the Weimar Triangle, that is, Poland, France and Germany. The first two members convinced Berlin to silent acceptance. The failure of Energiewende to use gas as a transition fuel in the era of Gazprom-fuelled energy crisis has shown that nuclear power is part of the solution to the problem of avoiding switching dependence on coal to gas during the transition period before (if at all) 100% renewable energy is ever possible. Germany itself decided to keep the remaining nuclear units in the network until the end of the heating season due to the fact that they are not ready to switch to 100 percent renewable energy, and on the way to that goal they became excessively dependent on natural gas. Despite these facts, the germinating anti-nuclear movement will try to block the atom in Poland. Let the Pole be wise before the damage, especially since resistance to nuclear energy can become a vulnerable ground for the Kremlin’s actions.