Under the agreement, NCBJ will receive about €13.3m from the government over three years for the development of a basic design of an HTGR device, with “an initial level of detail.”
According to NCBJ’s director Krzysztof Kurek, laboratory facilities will need to be built at the facility, primarily for the testing of materials to be used in an HTGR.
“Materials for this type of devices must work under extreme conditions, like high temperatures, high pressures, and exposure to neutron radiation,” he said.
“As part of the contract, we will also perform the necessary technical analyses, simulations and safety analyses required prior to applying for a license to build a nuclear facility.”
In January 2018, a report by NCBJ, which operates Poland’s only research reactor, named Maria, on the outskirts of Warsaw, advised the government that HTGR technology would offer Poland an affordable and reliable heat source for domestic industry and help reduce the country’s dependency on imported gas.
The report said HTGR deployment could reduce CO2 emissions by replacing coal-fired boilers and pave the way for potential HTGR exports by Poland’s nuclear industry.
Poland expects HTGRs to help decarbonise the non-power sectors of its industry by providing heat for large industrial consumers like those in the chemicals sector.
Polish climate minister Michał Kurtyka said the government supports all initiatives that could contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, including conventional nuclear power and the eventual commercialisation of HTGRs.
In 2019, the Polish energy ministry awarded almost €4m to the National Centre for Research and Development to support the development of HTGR technology in partnership with NCBJ.
HTGRs have a number of benefits over traditional pressurised water reactors, including the capability to supply process heat for industrial applications. They use uranium fuel, a graphite moderator and helium gas as a coolant. Several attempts have been made to build reactors of this type, but none has so far entered commercial service.