For several years, Poland has been developing plans to increase its nuclear power capabilities. Poland is one of Europe’s largest coal producers and is currently dependent on its significant coal reserves for energy production. However, coal production is unsustainable and Poland must meet the challenge posed by climate change and the standards of European policies, meaning it must focus on renewable energy sources and nuclear power. In October 2020, the Council of Ministers updated the Polish Nuclear Energy Program, aiming to increase nuclear power capacity due to its positive environmental impact, reliability, and economic benefits.
The threat of climate change cannot be overestimated; human emissions of greenhouse gases threaten the natural world, human health, and living conditions in Poland and the rest of the world. Over the past decade, energy demand in Poland has steadily increased, so it is time that the country seeks to decarbonize so that it may keep up with growing demands in line with environmental preservation and international standards. Timing is also crucial in this decarbonization project; replacing coal with alternative fuel sources must be done within the next few decades to mitigate the effects of climate change before they become irreversible.
Implementing nuclear power will have numerous benefits for Poland. First, it is known to be a zero-emission source of energy and the technology has proven to be safe and effective. While other experimental energy sources are being developed, nuclear power is highly trusted and the technology has been developing for several decades. Beyond environmental benefits, nuclear power plants in Poland will generate numerous jobs (in construction, management, and the supply chain) and nuclear energy will not be very costly to consumers. Local governments will receive increased tax revenue, as plants pay significant taxes that will then contribute to improving the quality of life for those living in the region. Additionally, power plants must only be refueled every 12 to 18 months, making them less susceptible to the volatility of energy markets. The Polish public is generally in favor of nuclear energy, and Polish firms have had experience with nuclear power in other countries to safely and quickly implement the technology in Poland. Thus, the government, public, and business sector in Poland will benefit from heavy investment in nuclear energy.
The benefits of nuclear power are not without their challenges, but Poland has had the benefit of watching how nuclear energy implementation has played out in other countries so that it may formulate a plan for success. A number of Western European countries have demonstrated the success of nuclear energy and have been able to attract investors by guaranteeing investment certainty, low costs for consumers, and flexibility. Poland must follow a similar plan to attract investors and outline a business model that meets the desires of both investors and energy consumers. It is also important that the state guarantees its citizens access to energy and that citizens pay costs of energy that are proportional to their incomes. Further, the Polish economy has emerged relatively strongly from the COVID-19 pandemic compared to other European economies, so nuclear power provides an opportunity to build on this success at a time when confidence in the Polish economy is high.
By PAC Policy Intern Caroline Nowak
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Caroline Nowak is a student at Tufts University pursuing International Relations and Russian and East European Studies.