Orlen Synthos Green Energy’s first nuclear power plant is entering the phase of obtaining environmental permits – writes Daniel Radomski, contributor to BiznesAlert.pl.
Atomic energy will be the answer to the growing energy crisis. However, in parallel with the development of large-scale nuclear power, new solutions are emerging. These are the technologies of Small Modular Reactors (SMR), which will be developed by Orlen Synthos Green Energy. The constuction of the first nuclear power plant by Orlen Synthos Green Energy is entering the phase of obtaining environmental permits. The documentation attached to the application for an environmental decision provides many details on the investment and describes several issues that require further analysis at the stage of drawing up an environmental report. The investor declares that there is no need for cross-border consultations.
The introduction to the project information sheet (KIP), specifies that the investment consists in the construction and operation of a nuclear power plant with a capacity of up to 1300 MWe, which indicates the usage of up to 4 units of the BWRX-300 type. Administratively the location is the city of Oświęcim, a post-industrial area in the immediate vicinity of the village Stawy Monowskie. On the basis of the data presented in the KIP, the General Directorate of Environmental Protection will determine the scope of the Environmental Impact Report (OOŚ report), which will be the basis for issuing a decision on environmental conditions (DŚU) – similar to what PGE EJ1 and PEJ need to obain for the regular large-scale NPP by the coast.
In the initial chapters, the investor describes the current energy mix of Poland and the advantages of the BWRX-300 technology in the context of achieving European climate goals, also refers to the provisions of Poland’s Energy Policy Until 2040 and other strategic documents.
Scale, characteristics and purpose of the project
Each of the power units will contain, in addition to the reactor, a control room building and an engineering building with a turbine and generator. The plant will also have auxiliary buildings, including water supply, pumping station, pipelines, cooling systems, electrical distribution and direct line to industrial plants of the Synthos group.
As part of the investment, in addition to the production of electricity, it is also assumed that heat can be used in industrial plants or for heating purposes. The investor points out that heating and electricity connections will be subject to separate proceedings (a separate application for DŚU).
The goal behind building the SMR is to shut down the currently operating coal-fired power plant in the neighbouring chemical plants of the Synthos group, and ultimately also the gas-fired power plant, which should significantly contribute to improving the quality of the natural environment.
As a result of the investment, an area of about 70 hectares will be fenced, located between the municipal-industrial wastewater treatment plant, the Dwory Canal, the Macocha River and the industrial waste landfill, behind which the railway siding of the Włosienica terminal operates.
Areas adjacent to the planned location (prepared by OSGE using Google Maps data)
On the side of the Dwory Canal, an area was reserved for the location of infrastructure related to the replenishment of water in the cooling circuit, which is to be drawn from the Dwory Canal. Alternatively, the use of a cooling system for treated waste water from a neighbouring urban-industrial waste water treatment plant is considered.
Infrastructure corridor-water pipeline to replenish the cooling circuit of the power plant
At the present stage, an infrastructure corridor has been identified, in which a direct line will be located connecting the proposed SMR with the industrial plants of the Synthos Group. It will operate at a voltage of at least 110kV, as a cable or overhead line. The exact form and course of the direct line will be the subject of further analysis.
Infrastructure corridor direct line to Synthos Dwory
The direct line will evacuate only part of the electricity produced by the facility. For this reason, the plan is to connect the SMR directly with the National Transmission System (KSE) with a line with a voltage of 220kV or 400kV. The connection point will be determined in cooperation with the Transmission System Operator – PSE at the stage of submitting an application for the issuance of conditions for connection to the electricity network. Currently, the use of Byczyna 400/220 kV, Poręba Wielka 220/110kV and Bieruń 220/110kV power stations is being considered for this purpose. The evacuation of power to the KSE will be carried out in accordance with a separate application for a DŚU.
Proposed network connections options (prepared by OSGE using OpenStreetMap data)
Current and planned land use
The investment area is overgrown with grassy and reed vegetation, and covered with water in the north. Historically, there was a receptacle for an old sewage treatment plant, whose operation was discontinued in the 1990s. Then it was supposed to be turned a landfill to store lime and ash, but that project was never completed.
The estimated area of facilities associated with the construction of one 300 MWe power unit is shown in the table below. The list does not include facilities whose dimensions depend on the location and facilities associated with the cooling system. Including the accompanying infrastructure, the area is estimated to occupy about 10 hectares per single power unit with a capacity of 300 MWe, and an additional 10 hectares for construction facilities.
|Facility||Estimated area [ha]|
|Spent fuel storage (dry)||0,2|
|Maintenance buildings (workshops)||0,8|
|Power unit with engine room building||1,3|
The investment is incompatible with the local Spatial Development Plan (MPZP), but for nuclear facilities such compliance is not required (Special Nuclear Act and OOŚ Act). Non-compliance with the MPZP is therefore not an obstacle to issuing a DŚU, which is the basis for issuing a localization decision by the Voivode.
In following chapters, the investor describes the general principle of operation of the nuclear power plant, its basic elements and types of cooling systems, and then proceeds to a detailed description of the BWRX-300 technology and individual buildings, including a detailed description of solutions that ensure a high level of passive safety.
The EIA Act requires the investor to carry out investment variance at the stage of obtaining a DŚU. It may be locational, technological or related to the scale of the project. For the investment in question, the investor waived the location variation and presented different cooling system options. Variations in the scale of investment are also taken into account.
For the location “Stawy Monowskie” it is not possible to use an open cooling system – it would require from 50 thousand up to 90,000 cubic meters of water an hour. With a closed cooling system, the water demand of a single block is from 800 cm/h to a maximum of 1200 cm/h, with the upper value occurring in “extreme situations”, e.g. during the summer.
Two basic solutions for a closed cooling system are considered: a chimney cooler and a fan cooler. A comparative analysis of the environmental impact of both options will be carried out at the EIA report stage.
The scale of the investment, understood as the number of energy blocks to be implemented, is also subject to variation: it can be 2, 3 or 4 nuclear blocks of the BWRX-300 type.
Specific environmental conditions
As part of the preliminary analyses commissioned by OSGE, the location was initially assessed in a number of respects, including with regard to geology, mining activity, seismology and human acivity. The analysis of tectonic structure and seismic activity was carried out by the Institute of Geophysics of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IGF PAN), while the analysis of geological phenomena, threats related to human activity, including mining activity, was carried out by the Central Mining Institute (GIG). The studies carried out as part of these preliminary analyses cover an area with a radius of 5 km (site area) and 30 km (site region) from the planned site boundaries.
The potential impact of historical and current mining activities, locations of deposits, mining areas is described. The conclusion is that current and historical mining activities do not pose a risk to the location of the nuclear facility at the site. The following chapters analyse the hydrogeological conditions and flood risks and identify risks that need further research and consideration in the construction project. The quantities of raw materials and waste related to the construction and operation stages are also described.
The fuel consumption in the operational phase for one 300 MWe reactor will be approx. 6.6 tons of uranium per year. Due to the periodic tests of efficiency and readiness of diesel generators, the annual diesel consumption is estimated at approx. 200 cm.
Protection of the environment and people
The next chapter details issues related to radiological and non-nuclear protection. The fundamental concept of security is “protection in depth”, i.e. multi-level systems that provide security through prevention, control of events and minimization of consequences. The BWRX-300 technology uses 5 levels of safety and a system of additional protective barriers, ensuring the maintenance of radioactive substances in certain areas of the nuclear facility and preventing their uncontrolled release into the environment. The investor emphasizes that “the solutions used in the BWRX-300 project ensure that the probability of a serious accident resulting in releases of radioactive substances into the environment is much lower than national and international requirements.”
The next chapter describes the scale of environmental impact at different stages of the life cycle of the project and substances introduced into the environment.
No cross-border impact
The investor claims that the technology chosen, taking into account the advanced safety systems used, and the relatively low level of capacity, “do not justify conducting an environmental impact assessment procedure in a cross-border context”. The applied range of design solutions ensures practical elimination of severe failures.
Nature conservation in the investment region
In the vicinity of Oświęcim, many protected areas have been designated. Directly adjacent to the location of the project is the Natura 2000 bird area and the Dolina Dolnej Skawy, which is adjacent to the Żaki Reserve. At greater distances, a number of other Natura 2000 sites, nature reserves, landscape parks and nature and landscape reserves operate.
The analysis of the impact of the project on these areas will be carried out at the stage of drawing up the EIA report.
Location on the background of protected areas (prepared by OSGE using OpenStreetMap and GDOŚ data)