Synthos, a manufacturer of synthetic rubber and one of the biggest producers of chemical raw materials in Poland, is interested in obtaining affordable, on-demand, carbon-free electricity from a dependable, dedicated source, GEH said in a statement.
In a memorandum of understanding the companies have agreed to investigate the potential to construct GEH’s BWRX-300 small modular reactor in Poland.
Jon Ball, executive vice-president of nuclear plant projects for GEH, said the BWRX-300 is a breakthrough innovation for an industry where the cost of new nuclear plants has become a significant barrier.
He said GEH is designing the BWRX-300 to be cost competitive with gas, renewables and other forms of power generation.
Michał Sołowow, owner of Synthos, is a former rally driver and one of the richest men in Poland. He said using SMRs to generate energy will improve the country’s chances of moving away from polluting coal and have a positive impact on industry.
“Small modular reactors can play a significant role in addressing Poland’s energy challenges, the modernisation of the nation’s energy sector and in achieving necessary and responsible deep decarbonisation,” he said.
Polish financial newspaper Puls Biznesu quoted Mr Solowow saying the Synthos and GEH joint project will be completed in the next 10 years with capital spending expected at about $1bn.
About 80% of Poland’s electricity comes from ageing coal plants, many of which will have to close in the coming decade. Poland wants to reduce that to 60% in the 2030s.
Poland admits it needs to lower emissions if it is to meet EU targets and sees nuclear energy as one way to do it. So far politicians have struggled to find the right financing model for new build and plans announced in 2014 to build up to 6 GW of capacity by 2035 have stalled.
The BWRX-300, a 300-MW water-cooled, natural circulation SMR with passive safety systems, makes use of the design and licensing basis of GEH’s Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor, or ESBWR. Through significant design simplification, GEH believes the BWRX-300 will require up to 60% less capital cost per MW when compared to other water-cooled SMR designs or existing large nuclear reactor designs.
The ESBWR design was certified by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission in October 2014.
GEH is a nuclear venture between Japan’s Hitachi and General Electric of the US.