Energy Nuclear 20 June, 2022 10:30 am   

The Polish nuclear cake is waiting for the brave


The Polish nuclear power program is not only a great opportunity for Polish energy companies, but also a chance for the Polish industry to make it big. However, it is necessary to act quickly to grab a piece of that cake – writes Mariusz Marszałkowski, editor at

We are still waiting for final decisions related to the Polish nuclear programme. The government has announced that by this fall the technological and financial partner that will construct Poland’s nuclear power plants will be selected. The construction of the first unit is expected to begin in 2026, and the commissioning is expected to occur in 2033. Three foreign technology providers are competing for a deal with Poland to build nuclear power plants with a total capacity of 6 to 9 GW. Those are the American Westinghouse, which offers AP1000 reactors with a capacity of 1250 MW, the French EDF with EPR reactors with a capacity of 1720 MW and the Korean concern KHNP, which is based on APR1400 technology with a capacity of 1400 MW.

There is no need to explain how important nuclear power is for our country. In the face of increasing climate and geopolitical challenges, stable, controllable and highly efficient generation III+ nuclear power units are the most desirable element in the energy sector of a country that still relies on coal and lignite for 70 percent of its electricity generation. Nuclear energy and the entire multibillion-dollar programme for its development are also important from an economic perspective. The plan for the construction of the Polish nuclear power units envisages almost 20 years of construction work on all six units, as well as at least 60 years of operation and maintenance of their individual components. This creates a great opportunity for the Polish industry, which already has, despite the lack of nuclear power in Poland, a lot of experience in the erection and comprehensive maintenance of such facilities in other countries.

Polish companies don’t have to start from scratch. Their portfolio is already rich in various activities related to both the construction of the nuclear power units themselves and their operation. According to 2021 data from the Ministry of Climate and Environment, 79 Polish companies participated in the construction and operation of 44 nuclear power plants in 25 countries located on three continents. In addition, Polish companies participated in the implementation of projects of two scientific research centers and two nuclear fuel production plants. These works were carried out practically throughout Europe, Russia, the USA, Canada, as well as China and India, but, of course, did not apply to the so-called tier I or even II. Typically, Polish companies provide services to subcontractors, but they still had to go through a very thorough and detailed certification before they were allowed to work at nuclear facilities. A subcontractor working at the construction site of such a plant, or helping with exploitation has to make exceptional organization effort. This is due to the rigorous organization and rules that need to be met to provide a given service, as well as information security and confidentiality required by the service buyer. And the customers are the leaders of the energy industry, including Siemens, General Electric, Rosatom, Hitachi or ABB and EDF and many others. In addition to the 79 companies from Poland already operating or having experience in working on nuclear projects, 25 more are currently at an advanced stage of preparation for the implementation of such projects and are going through the certification procedure, among others.

It is clear that the Polish industry is not able to participate in all stages of the construction of a nuclear power plant as a partner. One can distinguish five main structural areas of a nuclear power plant, each with a specific type of work – from the design of components, their production, installation to their modernization, repairs and ongoing maintenance.

Out of the five construction areas, the first one is the so-called nuclear island. It includes all structural elements related to the occurrence of nuclear reactions both inside the reactor core and the accompanying elements. This is the most complicated and-at the stage of construction of the first nuclear power units in Poland-rather inaccessible for the Polish industry part of the order (both in the field of design and production). This is due to the fact that specific technological solutions are provided only by the technology provider or companies directly related to it. The Climate and Environment Ministry believes that when it comes to this part of the project, Polish companies could take part in the montage and maintenance of parts of the island, e.g. emergency power systems or secondary systems.

The second area where the Polish industry has more potential to participate is the turbine island together with the generator. With the exception of the turbine itself and the generator, the Polish industry has a big chance at participation in this segment. It is even possible that it will be able to engage in designing single solutions for auxiliary systems, or in the next stages of construction, e.g. a steam condenser. This part of the construction of the nuclear power plant is best known to Polish companies operating in the nuclear sector abroad. A branch of the Famet company, which is located in Opole, provides services for the Hinkley Point C NPP in Britain that is under construction. Its main contractor is France’s Framatom (part of EDF). Famet is a subcontractor to GE, for which it manufactures metal components for turbine parts.

The third area is the so-called conventional island. Here, the ministry identifies the largest potential participation for Polish companies. This is because such islands are a standard at all kinds of power plants, including the conventional ones, and Polish companies have extensive, local experience in building and operating them, which they gained thanks to participating in the construction of coal-fired power plants.

The fourth area in which the participation of Polish companies would also be significant is any work accompanying the main works, i.e. earthworks, construction, logistics, etc. The fifth and last area is power evacuation, which includes the installation of transformers, high voltage lines, security systems, etc. Here, too, the Polish industry can safely participate in the construction from the very beginning.

According to the Polish Nuclear Power Programme (PPEJ), the share of Polish businesses in the construction of nuclear power in Poland is expected to reach 40% during the construction of the first three reactors, and then increase for the next three. In order to achieve such a level of “polonization”, PPEJ offers a 10-year support program for the domestic industry to be able to participate in the Polish NPP program. The program will focus on, among others, supporting the companies in getting costly certificates, which grant access to contracts for building NPS outside of Poland, trainings for employees, preparing production infrastructure and promoting Polish companies on international markets. The budget of this project is PLN 57.5 million.

The expected level of participation of the Polish industry in the construction of nuclear power plants in the country is ambitious, but not impossible to achieve. According to the government the construction of the first units will start in four years at the earliest. This is a period that companies can use to expand their capabilities in the construction of nuclear power plant components. It should be borne in mind that the degree of polonization depends mainly on the will of the technology supplier to award contracts to Polish entities. So far, the three companies that have put offers on the table have promised that Polish companies would actively participate in the projects. For many Polish companies, nuclear power is only a small part of their core business, not its foundation. Increasing its share in this industry would mean the possibility of significantly expanding their portfolios and thus diversifying the core production with new types of products and services. However, this requires a lot of financial input and support from the state in external markets. We still have time, but we should not postpone strategic decisions until the last moment, because the “to be or not to be” moment of Polish content for NPPs is already being forged on the construction sites of such facilities in Finland, Great Britain and Canada. Representatives of the nuclear industry agree that they are not afraid of facing the challenges posed by the PPEJ. The program is just another project and the experience and relations they have gathered in recent years have made then an equal partner for companies that deal with nuclear power on a daily basis.