Mar 27, 2023
ORLEN Synthos Green Energy is getting closer to the construction in Poland of first small modular reactors (SMRs). This is the result of an agreement for joint investment in the development of the BWRX-300 technology signed in Washington between companies from Poland, the US and Canada. For the first time ever, a Polish company has become party to an agreement for a design for nuclear power plants, while being given an opportunity to actively participate in the design process.
The agreement signed by Synthos Green Energy, with which PKN ORLEN is developing a fleet of SMR units, will allow it to obtain a design consistent with both European and Polish standards and thus to expedite the construction work on Poland’s first SMR. In addition, the design will be applicable to further SMR deployments, significantly streamlining the entire process and reducing the cost of building the BWRX-300 fleet. In Poland, ORLEN Synthos Green Energy has exclusive rights to build reactors based on this technology.
“The collaboration that has been established proves that our plans to deploy small modular reactors in Poland are feasible. This is a major step forward towards building an entire fleet of reactors we intend to develop together with our partner ORLEN Synthos Green Energy. The result will be stable energy supplies flowing to Polish industry and households by the end of this decade. Each successive SMR will bolster the energy security of our country, and we are talking of an absolutely safe and, on top of that, a low-emission source of energy,” says Daniel Obajtek, CEO and President of the Management Board, PKN ORLEN.
The Polish company’s partners are Ontario Power Generation (OPG) – a Canadian power supplier running a project to develop the world’s first BWRX-300 near Toronto, and the federally owned Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) – one of the largest electric utility corporations in the US. TVA will develop the first BWRX-300 in the US at Clinch River, for which its has already secured a site permit from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. GE Hitachi, the owner of BWRX-300, is another party to the agreement, which will allow it to step up work on the technology.
“For the first time ever, a private Polish company is investing in a design for nuclear power plants. We do this because GE Hitachi's state-of-the-art modular technology is simply ideal for decarbonising energy and heat production in Poland, and also for our other zero-emission projects in the United Kingdom and throughout Central Europe,” says Rafal Kasprów, CEO of Synthos Green Energy.
Through the agreement signed in Washington with the participation of the Polish Ambassador to the US Marek Magierowski, the partners are to invest in the development of a design led by GE Hitachi, the total investment amount to exceed USD 400 million. The work will include the BWRX-300 standard design and detailed design for the reactor building and other components with a reactor pressure vessel and internals. Work to finalise the agreement had been under way from spring 2020.
The fact that the project’s overall cost will be funded by several contributors, which will develop power plants using reactors from GE Hitachi, will strengthen the cost competitiveness of the technology deployment. The involvement of electricity companies controlled by the US federal government (TVA) and by the government of the Canadian province of Ontario (OPG) is proof that BWRX-300 is the most mature technology for constructing SMRs.
The collaboration and additional funding will ensure that the standard design is deployable in different parts of the world and in multiple jurisdictions. To this end, a dedicated team will be formed by the agreement signatories (the design centre working group) to ensure compliance of the technology design with the regulations and standards applicable in various jurisdictions. The goal is for the BWRX-300 technology to be licensed and deployed in the US, Canada, Poland as well as other countries.
In Poland, ORLEN Synthos Green Energy began the prelicensing process in July 2022 by requesting a general opinion on BWRX-300 from the President of the Polish State Atomic Energy Agency. The company is now conducting siting studies for the planned fleet of BWRX-300s. The first nuclear plant would be completed the end of this decade. Details of the considered locations will be unveiled in April.
Preparations to construct the first BWRX-300 SMR are being carried out by OPG at the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station near Toronto. The new facility is slated to be placed in operation by the end of 2028. Last year, OPG applied for a construction permit to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, and a contract for the project was signed in January 2023 with OPG, GEH, SNC Lavalin and Aecon as the contractors. As for TVA, it is preparing to apply for a permit to construct a BWRX-300 at Clinch River in Tennessee, while exploring additional sites in its service area (southeastern states of the US) for more potential SMR deployments.
The BWRX-300 is being designed to reduce construction and operating costs below other nuclear power generation technologies, while ensuring the highest standards of safety and operational reliability. The design is being developed to leverage proven technologies and components already used in the US-licensed ESBWR reactor as well as existing certified fuel that has been produced for years. A decision to build a BWRX-300 has recently been made by Estonia. Interest in the GE Hitachi technology, to a varying extent, has already been expressed by some 30 countries.