Zarnowiec (dpa) – A sign on the brown iron gate warns: “Construction site. Do not enter.” But on the access road behind it, a forest of tall pines has been growing for a long time – there has been no construction here for a long time. In Zarnowiec, just a few kilometers from the Baltic coast, Poland’s first nuclear power plant was to be built during the Communist era.
Today, the immense ruin looks like the symbol of a failed era: rusty steel grids protrude from patinated concrete blocks, spotlights are still suspended from the platform of a metal pole. Construction of the Prestige project, which began in the 1980s, was abandoned in 1990. Also in Poland, after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, resistance to nuclear energy increased.
Today, however, the national-conservative PiS government is considering a massive entry into nuclear power – this is followed with concern in Germany. The two prime locations are close to the Baltic Sea: again Zarnowiec and Lubiatowo-Kopalino, both 70 kilometers from Gdansk and 450 kilometers from Berlin.
The first reactor block should be commissioned in 2033
The construction of the first reactor block, which is to be commissioned in 2033, is to start no later than 2026, according to the strategic document “Poland’s energy policy until 2040” presented in February. Five more reactor blocks will follow by 2043. Nuclear power plants are expected to help Poland phase out coal – the country currently derives nearly 80 percent of its energy from hard coal and lignite.
“The examples of highly industrialized and highly developed countries and regions such as France, Sweden and the Canadian province of Ontario prove that atomic energy contributes to the efficient, rapid and deep decarbonization of electrical energy”, the government announces in another 2020 nuclear policy document. Nuclear power plants are the “cheapest source of energy, taking into account the total balance of costs and operating time” and could provide “the country’s energy security”.
In October 2020, Poland signed an agreement with the United States on nuclear cooperation. The American company Westinghouse must be involved in the studies of the model.
According to a recent poll, 45% of Poles reject the construction of nuclear power plants, 39% are in favor. However, there is so far no organization in the region around Gdansk that is mobilizing against the plans for a nuclear power plant, said Polish Green MP Tomasz Anisko.
Unease in Germany is growing
Poland’s plans are “backward-looking,” said Sylvia Kotting-Uhl, spokesperson for the Greens parliamentary group for nuclear policy. “The Polish decision is not economically sound and takes totally unnecessary risks today.” A report drawn up at the start of the year, which your group appointed to five renowned environmental and nuclear experts, including those from the University of Geneva, came to the conclusion: In the event of an accident in a power plant Polish nuclear power plant, Germany would consider all wind and weather opportunities affected with a 20 percent probability. “In the worst case, 1.8 million Germans would be exposed to radiation that would lead to an evacuation,” Kotting-Uhl explains.
The federal government has also reacted. At the end of March, she sent the government in Warsaw a statement containing many unanswered questions about the Polish energy program 2040. Berlin calls for inclusion in the planning of the nuclear power plant, as the potentially significant negative cross-border environmental impacts on the Germany cannot be excluded. outside, he said. The environmental impact study of nuclear power plant sites also dates from 2010 and is obsolete. The unresolved questions from the German point of view also concern the establishment of a Polish nuclear supervisory authority as well as the interim and final storage facilities for spent fuel elements.
The Federal Ministry of the Economy is blocked on the continuation of the dialogue with the neighboring country. A spokeswoman said that “as regards bilateral cooperation”, they do not want to give details on communication with the Polish government. At the Warsaw Ministry of Climate and Environment, it is only indicated that at the beginning of May, they answered questions from the German government and referred to the corresponding resolutions of the Polish government.