2033 as a goal of construction of the first Polish nuclear reactor is an aggressive schedule, but it is achievable. Some of this depends on the actions of third parties, such as the Polish government or a nuclear regulator. The availability of workers will also be critical- says Ahmet Tokpinar, vicepresident of Bechtel Energy in an interview with BiznesAlert.pl.
BiznesAlert.pl: What is the division of tasks between Bechtel and Westinghouse in the construction of the first Polish nuclear powerplant?
Ahmet Tokpinar: In this regard, Bechtel will be the Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) contractor providing the non-nuclear design and supply and constructing the entire nuclear power plant, and Westinghouse will provide the nuclear island including the technology and the reactors. Bechtel will also manage and integrate all of the various subcontractors and vendors across the plant site and, in some cases, at vendor sites. Finally, we will transfer the know-how of large, complex project management to the other members of the team.
The AP1000 reactor is proven, operating technology. Four reactors are currently operating and two more will be on line by the end of 2024. Historically, Westinghouse technology is prevalent in more than half of the world’s nuclear sites and has been proven to have outperforming standards. And Bechtel has built or serviced 80 plants in the U.S. and 150 worldwide.
Bechtel’s and Westinghouse’s offer is holistic: it includes the entire area of engineering, equipment, the construction phase and support in operation and maintenance, as well as the training of personnel who will build the plant and operate it.
I believe that the development of best practices by both our company and by Westinghouse will be a great benefit to Polish energy transition.
What are the prospects for Polish companies?
In April 2022, we signed a Memorandum of understanding with 12 Polish companies regarding the construction of two new civilian nuclear power plants. And this is just the start. We expect hundreds of suppliers and contractors to be involved in the project. Our belief is that cooperation is the key to success. For this reason, we are committed to partnering with Polish companies while creating more than 10 000+ construction jobs and ~900 permanent jobs at each plant. We know that building a power plant requires Polish expertise and thousands of skilled Polish workers and it is why we aim to sign further agreements with Polish firms and work closely with the labor unions. Our aim is to boost the Polish economy and growth through our partnerships, and it is safe to say that there will be billions of dollars spent with Polish industry.
In connection with the growing interest in nuclear power in the world, Poland is likely to become a construction hub for nuclear power plants in the region and, consequently, the demand for Polish specialists in this field should grow.
What is the Bechtel work plan?
As a trusted partner with an established presence in the U.S., Europe and global markets, we leverage the experience and lessons learned from completed projects for the one in Poland – especially the completion of two AP1000 reactors in the U.S. state of Georgia (Plant Vogtle Units 3 and 4). A comprehensive plan was submitted to the Polish government in the U.S. proposal. Given the early stage, we can’t reveal more from that plan yet, but you can be sure that our work plan will be tailored to meet Poland’s needs. In this regard, we also desire close cooperation with Polish companies.
How the energy crisis and Russia’s attack on Ukraine affect these plans?
Russia’s invasion on Ukraine has definitely had a significant impact on world peace and security and has placed increase focus on energy security across Europe. As we speak, Europe is deciding how to address climate change while retaining energy sovereignty. As the U.S. government has made clear, a nuclear power station is essentially a 100-year endeavor from construction, to operations, to decommissioning. The United States is a proven leader in nuclear technology, a stable partner, and a NATO ally. The U.S. proposal is a reflection of the U.S. commitment to Poland’s energy security and could mark the expansion of the strategic relationship with Poland.
What is the role of the U.S. government?
This question is best addressed to the U.S. government. However, the U.S. and Poland have been strategic partners for many years while cooperating on policy, economic and military issues. The nuclear cooperation would create a new facet for that relationship while building on the richness of past experiences. Bechtel, as a U.S. company, believes it can become an important partner further bringing those two countries together while promoting that new level of cooperation.
Energy sovereignty is a matter of national security, which is especially important given the recent geopolitical developments in the region. Bechtel is committed to supporting the Polish government in improving its energy strategy and ensuring its energy sovereignty. Bechtel is equipped to do so through its rich expertise on how to build and deliver safe and efficient nuclear power plants.
Developing a safe, robust, and sustainable nuclear power industry, in cooperation with a trusted partner, will help Poland meet its climate goals leading to further decarbonization.
We also note that Article 2(2) of the intergovernmental agreement between the U.S. and Poland says that Poland “wishes to leverage the vast expertise and experience of U.S. Government experts, regulators, nuclear industry and national laboratories in achieving that goal.
How will Bechtel transfer the know-how to Poland/Polskie Elektrownie Jądrowe?
Poland has very skilled workers but the challenge in a country that doesn’t have a nuclear history, is setting up the required training, orientation, and nuclear mindset up front, for skilled laborers to execute such a large, complex project.
What differentiates us from our competitors is that we will not bring thousands of workers to Poland. We will hire people in Poland.
Is the date for the first reactor in 2033 realistic?
It is an aggressive schedule, but it is achievable. Some of this depends on the actions of third parties, such as the Polish government or a nuclear regulator. The availability of workers will also be critical – for example, will there be other major infrastructure projects in Europe competing for skilled workers?
What is clear is that Poland has said it needs a nuclear power plant as soon as possible. Bechtel’s proven track of success is of huge importance especially as for Poland it’ll be the first-ever nuclear plant and thus the importance of choosing a right, established and experienced partner is unmatchable. That’s why we have created a well-thought-out plan and would be ready to start as soon as the Polish government’s decision is made.
Bechtel’s and Westinghouse’s offer is holistic: it includes the entire area of engineering, equipment, the construction phase and support in operation and maintenance, as well as the training of personnel who will build the plant and operate it. With the timely decision, we will do everything to meet the 2033 deadline.
Interview by Wojciech Jakóbik.