Cablegate: Poland's Plans for a Civil Nuclear Program
R 231550Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY WARSAW
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 7532
INFO DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS WARSAW 001450
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON ENRG EINV TRGY BEXP BTIO PL
SUBJECT: POLAND'S PLANS FOR A CIVIL NUCLEAR PROGRAM
REF: SECSTATE 127423
1. (SBU) Summary: The Polish government has committed to develop a
nuclear power sector, driven by CO2 emissions constraints and
reluctance to rely on imported energy. Prime Minister Tusk recently
announced his intention to have two reactors up and running by 2020;
an ambitious target for a country lacking experience and expertise
but one which may be necessary to comply with recently adopted EU
emissions targets. A timeline for further development leading out
to 2030 is in the new energy strategy paper awaiting approval by the
PM and his cabinet. Most importantly, the draft strategy includes
provisions for government financing (with help from EU funds) of
preparatory work over the next four or five years resulting in a
bidding process for the private sector to construct and maintain
nuclear facilities (expected to take another five or six years).
These plans are unaffected by developments on Ignalina, where Poland
plans to participate in a project to replace Lithuania's ageing
nuclear plant. End Summary.
Strategy and Timeline
2. (U) Ministry of Economy officials who currently have the lead on
nuclear policy anticipate the government's energy strategy to be
approved sometime in the first quarter of 2009. This would kick off
a six month period of public discussion on nuclear power before a
formal decision is made to go ahead with a program in the third
quarter of 2009. Polling shows support for nuclear power at around
60%, higher among younger generations. There is no real opposition
movement here (as elsewhere in Europe) but the issue has not been in
the headlines in recent years and poll numbers are likely to shift.
However, officials believe they will maintain sufficient public
support to move forward.
3. (U) Following a formal decision on nuclear power, a new agency
would be created to oversee the program. Polish officials plan to
model this agency on IAEA draft recommendations for a "Nuclear
Energy Program Implementation Organization" (NEPIO). Agency
responsibilities would encompass development of the human capital
necessary to support a nuclear program, including regulatory and
oversight capacity; an area where the Poles specifically would like
our help. The agency would also work on site selection, development
of a legal and regulatory framework, as well as bidding
requirements. In the plan's current iteration, the NEPIO would
transition authority to a regulatory body and private owner/operator
upon completion of the first nuclear power plants.
Construction and Potential Participants
4. (SBU) Construction would be bid out to international
competition, with financing support from the government, EU climate
funds, and quasi-governmental companies such as Poland's largest
current energy producer and distributor, Polish Energy Group (PGE).
Currently PGE, Suez Energy, RWE energy, EDF, Westinghouse, and GE
have been in contact with the Polish government regarding potential
participation. Prior to the Prime Minister's most recent
announcement, the Ministry of Economy announced two preliminary
locations for potential nuclear facilities in Poland, Zarnowiec and
Klempicz. These sites currently have coal-based power plants.
Poland does not currently have the local capacity or experience to
take on a construction process on the scale of a nuclear power
plant, nor is it a producer of nuclear fuel. While generally open
to international competition, government authorities will likely be
wary of Russian participation in a nuclear program.
Authorities and Decision-Makers
5. (SBU) Currently, nuclear issues are regulated by the National
Atomic Agency, headed by former nuclear safety inspector Professor
Jerzy Niewodniczanski. The agency primarily looks after issues of
safety related to potential sources of radiation and the old Soviet
research facility (Swierk) which is currently being dismantled with
US DOE assistance. Indicative of the lack of experienced nuclear
professionals in Poland, the agency's sole remaining inspector (out
of 104 employees) announced he is leaving his half-time position
after the holidays.
6. (SBU) The political decision to move forward with nuclear power
will likely be taken by Prime Minister Tusk, with advice from his
energy advisor Maciej Wozniak. Formal authority over energy rests
with the Ministry of Economy headed by Deputy Prime Minister Pawlak
who also leads the minority coalition partner in the parliament.
Minister Pawlak's party primarily represents rural interests and is
rumored to be less enthusiastic about nuclear power in favor of
bio-fuel alternatives and the country's current fuel of choice, coal
(over 90% of power generation). The Ministry's Office of Energy
Diversification currently has the lead under Minister Pawak.
Department Director Chwas shares responsibility with Dr. Jastrowski,
an advisor to the Ministry on nuclear issues and Poland's
representative to the IAEA.
7. (SBU) Comment: Poland is clearly in early stages of development
and the government's ability to follow through on a long-term
commitment may be limited by their short-term focus and historically
frequent turnover. However, with the recent passage of the EU's
energy climate package, the GoP will undoubtedly be looking more
seriously at nuclear power. There seems to be an appetite for U.S.
input into the process, particularly as decision-makers may be wary
of third-country governments simply pushing products rather than
providing honest advice. As this moves forward we anticipate
opportunities for U.S. private sector participation at each stage of
the process. Post would encourage outreach and engagement of the
newly established U.S. Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee.
End Cable Text