Country also needs investment in large reactors and renewables, says economic institute
The greatest potential of small modular reactor construction for Poland may lie in the production of district energy in the country’s largest urban areas, but building SMRs will not replace the need to invest in renewable energy and large-scale nuclear, the Polish Economic Institute said.
In a report on prospects for the use of SMRs in Poland’s energy transition, the institute said three SMR plants each with a capacity of 300 MW could meet up to 80% of the capital city Warsaw’s demand for district energy in 2040.
District energy systems take energy released as heat from a range of energy sources – in this case an SMR – and connect it to energy consumers through a system of highly insulated pipes.
The institute said its research had suggested that SMRs could meet over 20% of the demand for district heat in large urban areas.
According to the institute, Poland has one of the most developed district heating systems in Europe with more than 40% of the 13.5 million households in the country connected to the heating network. District heating is also responsible for around a quarter of all the heat generated, including in industry.
However, coal remains “the fundamental fuel” with around 14.5 million tonnes used per year.
One of the cities that could benefit significantly from the use of SMRs to decarbonisation its heating is Warsaw, the institute said.
In 2020, the demand for system heat in the Polish capital amounted to 8.9 TWh with more than 90% was produced by plants that use hard coal. Future demand for heating in Warsaw could exceed 14 TWh, according to the institute.
Installing three SMRs could meet 80% of Warsaw’s annual heating demand in 2040, while boosting electricity production in the months when demand for heating falls.
Poland has plans to build large-scale nuclear power plants and small modular reactors in an effort to reduce carbon emissions from its power generation sector. The country at present gets about 70% of its electricity from stations burning coal.
In November 2022, Warsaw chose US-based Westinghouse Electric to supply its AP1000 reactor technology for a three-unit nuclear power station at the Lubiatowo-Kopalino site in the northern municipality of Choczewo near the Baltic coast of Pomerania.